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Full text of "Olga Bardel"

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OLGA 
BARD E L 



STACY AUMONIER 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



OLGA BARDEL 



OLGA BARDEL 



BY 



STACY AUMONIER 




NEW YORK 

THE CENTURY CO. 

1916 



Copyright, 1916, by 
The Century Co. 



Published, September, 1916 



1>\ 

Goo\ 
Pi ^o? Oct 



DEDICATKD TO 

CURTIS BROWN 



1512-SO 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

BOOK I 

CHAPTEB PAOK 

PROLOGUE: BRAILLE'S PORTRAIT 3 

I MECHANICAL ACTIONS 17 

II "SCALES" 34 

III A FESTIVAL OF DEPRAVITY 63 

IV ROLLY'S AQUARIUM 69 

V CHESSLE TERRACE 86 

VI "THE ARMENIAN FROCK" 94 

VII "REVOLT" 112 

VIII "THE BOARD MEETING" 130 

IX THE TWO METHODS 148 

X THE LANTERN 166 

BOOK II 

I 'IDEAS" '. 187 

II "THE GUILDEFORD SET" 197 

III KARL'S VISIT 218 

IV THE DRONE OF LONDON 235 

V AMBITION 250 

VI RETROSPECTION 269 

VIT "THE COMFORTABLE CRUCIFIXION" . . . .286 

VIU THE RETURN 301 

IX THE SANCTUARY OF PORCELAIN 319 

X THE FURTFVE LOVERS . . .... 335 

XI THE LETTER . 351 

EPILOGUE: THE ROOF OF PURBECK STONT] . 360 



OLGA BARDEL 

BOOK I 



OLGA BARDEL 



PROLOGUE 



BRMLLE'a PORTRAIT 



IT was delightful meeting Braille again after so 
many years. For some reason or other I had been 
to a smoking concert in connection with a hospital, 
and afterwards had adjourned with several doctors to a 
very gloomy club in St. James's. Now doctors are the 
dearest chaps in the world ; but when they get together, 
and have one or two drinks and start talking shop, they 
are apt to make one feel uncomfortable. I had made 
some excuse and quitted their society, and I must say 
that I felt very relieved to get out into the air. As I 
was going round the corner of Jermyn Street I ran into 
Braille. 

I had not seen Braille since we were at the Beaux Arts 
together, which was remarkable inasmuch as at that time 
we were inseparable. I forget the exact questions that 
had caused a final estrangement between us, but I believe 
that a series of differences in connection with housework 
may have brought matters to a head. 

As far as I can remember Braille did not show up 
very well at that time. Of course it may have been a 
little ambitious on my part to attempt a bouillebaisse 

3 



4 OLGA BAEDEL 

with the limited accessories for cooking that we had at 
the Rue Quatre Septembre, but he certainly took a very 
exaggerated view of its failure, and the damage that was 
done to a folio of his water colors, that had in any case no 
right to have been on the east side of the stove. We had 
definitely arranged that they were not to be put on the 
east side of the stove, and he knew it. And at the same 
time his eternal omelettes — without seasoning of any 
sort — were not so superlatively wonderful as to give any 
sort of justification for the supercilious attitude that he 
adopted towards my bouillehaisse. Moreover, he was so 
ridiculously fastidious about certain matters in connec- 
tion with washing up that I sometimes despaired of him 
ever becoming an artist at all ; and it may also be a fact 
that his sudden and rapid leap to success whilst I 
remained somewhere near the starting post, may have 
helped to shatter that world of splendid intimacies which 
we shared for all too brief a period. 

But whatever the reason — and you must please remem- 
ber that at that time we were both very young, at an age 
when the affair of the houillehaisse assumed portentous 
dimensions — it was a breach that personally I instantly 
deplored and for the rest of my life up to that period 
had profoundly regretted. It was one of those cases in 
which we were both too proud to take the first step at 
reconciliation, and then we left it too long. 

But of late I had been thinking very intently of Braille 
on account of that remarkable painting of his called 
"The Mother," which of course you know, and which 
had just been exhibited for the first time in London. 
You may imagine then the feeling of elation that pos- 
sessed me when I gripped his hand, a feeling that was 



BRAILLE'S PORTRAIT 5 

further accentuated when I realized that Braille was by 
no means unmoved at meeting me. 

"You look just the same," he said, and I felt his keen 
eyes searching ray face and seeing it "in terms of paint." 

The hair on Braille's temples had turned quite gray, 
but otherwise he, too, looked remarkably the same. 
I remember that I\IcCartney one day remarked, ' ' Braille 
has an old-fashioned face. You expect him to quote 
Latin tags." I never heard him quote Latin tags, but he 
certainly had an old-fashioned face to the extent that his 
features were molded on classic lines. They were clean 
cut and strong and had something of that Puritanic cast 
that characterized the old Colonial pioneers. He was 
tall and straight, and on the surface very English. I 
remember another remark that McCartney made concern- 
ing him. Braille was standing one day, verj- erect, 
looking out of our window across a vista of roofs, and 
^McCartney was sitting by me sketching feverishly with a 
pencil — he was one of those people who could not keep 
his hands still — he looked at Braille and muttered, 

"Dreaming of his well-groomed lawns." 

And somehow that phrase always stuck to me in think- 
ing of Braille. "Well-groomed lawns" seemed to give 
a lively keynote to his character, as it does I fancy to 
many another Englishman in distant lands who dreams 
of his "brumous isle." It suggests centuries of a culti- 
vated faith in certain things — Cold baths, dumb-bells, 
marmalade, conformity and well-ordered sport. The ex- 
pression seemed peculiarly apposite to Braille — in any 
case to the surface of Braille — because his people had a 
lovely old manor house in Somerset, and they used to 
hunt and shoot, and do all those things whicli a real 



6 OLGA BARDEL 

Englishman should do. He had a certain frigidity of 
manner with strangers, and enjoyed a reputation for 
aloofness and austerity. But those of us who knew him 
well, knew that, as a matter of fact, he was a man of very 
keen sympathies and sensibilities, although he had that 
infinite capacity for never betraying emotion before 
strangers which is an established tradition of our race. 
When one got him alone the edifice of this austere bear- 
ing would suddenly come crashing to the ground, and he 
would break into a delightful boyish manner. He loved 
to talk of intimate things, and he did so in a naive, 
unselfconscious manner. 

His father had been an admiral who had died when 
Braille was twelve. His veneration for his father had 
an enormous influence on his life. It was difficult to get 
him to speak of him. He would only do so to people of 
whom he was fond, and only then on rare occasions and 
in a changed tone of voice. After a time he would shrug 
his shoulders and look contemptuously round the studio, 
as though embracing in his glance the whole fabric of 
human society, and mutter, "All these other things seem 
such— piffle!" 

I know very little about Admiral Braille, but he must 
have been a man of unique character. He certainly 
handed down to his son great qualities of heart and 
brain, virility and resource, a fierce hatred of cruelty and 
uncleanliness, and a certain splendid chivalry. Neither 
do I know anything of his mother or of that mystic influ- 
ence that lured him from the sea. 

As a painter he painted with insolent cleverness from 
the first, and has since, as you know, become famous as 
one of the world's most dexterous portrait painters. 



BRAILLE'S PORTRAIT 7 

I 'm not sure that even now I admire his work to the 
extent that so many experts appear to. He loved to lay 
bare the shallow side of human nature, its glitter and 
appanage. Fat society women surrounded by greedy, 
expensive little dogs ; anaemic princes standing under the 
protection of massive porticos that emphasized their 
insignificance; brainless, flaccid daughters of ancient 
families lying on gorgeous settees in rooms of magnificent 
proportions and appointments; all these things jumped 
at you from the canvas, and gripped your attention by 
their amazing cleverness of portrayal. You were 
dazzled by the virility of the thing. 

I always found Braille a much more lovable person 
than the impression of his work might suggest. I 
remember that one day when I railed him on his outlook, 
he replied, "Perhaps if they would let me paint the poor 
I would paint with more reverence." 

This of course was nonsense, for there was nothing to 
prevent hiin from painting the poor, except that the rich 
clamored to be painted by Braille and paid for it, and 
the poor did n't. My own impression is that Braille was 
capable of painting the poor and painting with more 
reverence, only that at that time the other thing excited 
his executive ability more, and it also satisfied a certain 
cynical — one might almost say "evangelical" — streak in 
his own nature. 

That he was capable of painting with reverence and 
dignity has since been amply demonstrated. But I 
think it was his painting of "The Mother" that marked 
the first change in this direction. 

"The Mother," as I have said, had just appeared in 
London a few weeks previous to the occasion of my meet- 



8 OLGA BARDEL 

ing Braille in Jermyn Street, and it had created a stir. 
You remember the beautifully painted interior, very low 
in tone and very sober. It had none of that insolence 
that characterized so many of his portraits. A woman 
in a gray frock is leaning on the black frame of a grand 
piano, and looking at her son. He is a handsome young 
rascal in khaki. He is silhouetted against the window 
reading a letter. He is grinning — just in the way that 
any young rascal will grin when he reads any letter from 
any girl. And the mother's face is grave and thought- 
ful and very beautiful. It is a superbly balanced work. 
But what interested me most particularly was the fact 
that the lady in the gray dress was — Olga Bardel ! 

I can hardly tell you how amazed I was when I recog- 
nized this fact. In what way had Braille come in touch 
with Olga Bardel? And why had he broken his tradi- 
tion to the extent of painting this singularly emotional 
picture ? For as one gazed at the face of this ' ' Mother ' ' 
looking at her son, one seemed to read much of the mys- 
tery and beauty of her life. It could only have been 
painted by some one supremely conscious of these 
qualities. . . . 

Braille took my arm quite automatically as he used to 
in the old days, and pulled me along in a panting 
endeavor to keep in step with his long strides. 

"I have a little place over in Gyves Court," he said. 

As we turned a corner an action of his brought old 
memories flooding back and sealed our sense of intimacy. 
He suddenly pulled my arm and peered down a passage, 
then he cocked his head at a slight tilt, and swept his 
stick round in a circle, thus defining the ambit of a pic- 
ture. He was always doing this in Paris. When any- 



BRAILLE'S PORTRAIT 9 

thing paintable struck him he just held it and defined it 
and we looked at it together in silence. I used to call 
them his "little visions." It wasn't necessary to speak 
at all, but sometimes I would say, "Yes, jolly ! isn't it?" 
and occasionally Braille would amplify his selection by 
muttering, ' ' Van Ey ck ! " or " Pieter de Hoogh ! " or else, 
' ' Wants a figure to give it scale, ' ' or some other remark 
emphasized to give a workmanlike flavor to the enjoy- 
ment of this mutual vision. 

We walked through a courtyard in silence, and up the 
steps of an eighteenth-century building, where a solemn 
Georgian-looking man ushered us into Braille's capacious 
apartments. They were furnished with a traditional and 
robust dignity that one would expect of Braille. We 
went into a dining-room where well-modulated lights 
revealed eighteenth-century paneling and fireplace. The 
walls were an egg-shell green with white moldings and 
cornice. Some Grinling Gibbons carving over the fire- 
place left in the original lime tree and going gray. A 
magnificent Chinese lacquer cabinet between the win- 
dows, and only one painting on the walls, a tempera by 
some early Siennese master of whom I had not heard. 

The Georgian-looking gentleman placed a tray of 
glasses and a tantalus on the center table and drew up 
two easy chairs to the fire and then left us. Braille 
lighted his pipe and grinned at me. 

"Now tell me all your new.s," he said. 

^ly news was essentially of a prosaic order and we 
soon came to discussing abstract things. 

Now it is a deplorable fact that, generally speaking, 
when we meet people who were our friends ten years or 
more ago and whom we have since dropped, we usually 



10 OLGA BARDEL 

find them drab. We always imagine that we have gone 
on, whilst they have stood still. They probably have the 
same impression of us. In any case it is seldom that a 
great friendship dropped for any length of time is 
reestablished with any degree of success. Perhaps it 
proves that we are all social cannibals! We batten on 
each other 's sympathies and thoughts. We exhaust each 
other, and when we find insufficient mental and moral 
nourishment we throw each other aside and seek fresh 
pastures. 

It was very gratifying therefore to us to find that we 
seemed to go on from the point where we left off years 
ago. Braille always had the faculty of exciting me, and 
making me find surprising things within myself, and the 
years seemed to have given him an increased buoyancy. 
We had a wild orgy of talk that night about the people 
we used to know, about "shop," about ideas, and every 
conceivable thing. But still Braille seemed to avoid the 
subject that was uppermost in my mind, the subject of 
'The Mother." It must have been some unearthly hour 
of the night when he suddenly exclaimed, "I 'm just 
beginning, Tony — just beginning to learn something 
about painting. I 'm going to start all over again. I 've 
been too objective." 

"Good heavens!" I answered. "What nonsense! 
Every year a Braille becomes more definitely a Braille. 
Wh}^ only yesterday I was in at the Grosvenor. I was 
looking at your portrait of the Due de Barre Sinisterre. 
I stood by it for quite a time and heard the remarks of 
the people. Eighty per cent, of them said, 'Why, that 's 
a Braille ! ' ; as far as I can remember no one said, ' Why, 



BRAILLE'S PORTRAIT 11 

that's the Due de Barre Sinisterre!' Isn't this evi- 
dence of subjectivity with a vengeance ? ' ' 

"It is 'n't exactly what I mean," answered Braille. 
"Tell me, what did they say after remarking that it was 
a Braille?" 

"Well," I replied, "some said, 'Deucid clever, isn't 
it?'; others said, 'What an old blackguard the man 
looks!'; and others, 'By Jove! the Buhl cabinet is clev- 
erly painted ! ' I even heard some one say, ' Is it true 
that Braille gets five thousand pounds for a portrait?' " 

"One might almost call that objectivity with a 
vengeance, ' ' he remarked. 

"What would you like them to say?" I asked. 

Braille thought for a moment and took up the poker. 
He threatened the fire with it and then put it down 
again. Then he said : 

"I should like them to look at the portrait for a long 
time without speaking. Then I should like them to mut- 
ter, *My God!' and then walk straight out of the gallery 
and never be the same again." 

I laughed and answered, "Well, I can tell you that 
your demands were fulfilled in my case in respect of 
another painting of yours. I think that I may say that 
I gazed at 'The Mother' for a long time. I believe I 
muttered 'My God!' and I know I have been — not quite 
the same since." 

Braille looked up at me quickly and there was a 
strange silence between us. I felt a little bit like a tres- 
passer on sacred soil and I made a bold attempt to justify 
myself. 

"I think I might go further," I said. "The picture 



12 OLGA BARDEL 

appealed to something fundamental in me. At that 
time I did walk out of the gallery. I went to an aerated 
bread shop and drank quantities of hot weak tea. I was 
very excited. Then I went back to the gallery and 
looked at it again. I felt curiously stirred by the por- 
trait — for I like to think of it as a portrait — I assure 
you it had the effect on me precisely as you prescribed. 
I was and am still under its spell. It has the stimulus 
of great art. As you know, I was a wretched painter at 
my best. And I see no reason to think that I should 
write any better. But ' The Mother ' brought to a head a 
certain slumbering ambition that I had had for a long 
time." 

"What is that?" asked Braille. 

* ' To set down to the best of my ability the story of — 
OlgaBardel!" 

I watched the queer look of surprise creep over 
Braille's face. Then he suddenly laughed and stood up. 
He stretched himself and looked at his long firm hands. 

"It 's a ridiculous profession," he said at last; "the 
profession of writing. ' ' Then he shrugged his shoulders 
and added, ' ' I Mould help you if I could. ' ' 

"I shall want the stimulus of your 'little visions/ " I 
answered. 

I felt Braille looking at me pityingly, and then with a 
sudden boyishness he said, "I 'm glad you feel like that, 
though ! Perhaps after all, Tony, it 's the only thing 
worth doing ! You met her at the Guildefords ', did n 't 
you? One met every one at the Guildefords'. Doesn't 
it seem rum, you and I sitting here to-night after all 
these years — and after all that has happened, and the 
thing that appeals to us is that we want to 'set it down !' 



BRAILLE'S PORTRAIT i;} 

You in your silly tablets, and I in paint. And it moves 
us more than anything. Do you remember in the old 
days when we used to talk about the 'fun' of paint? I 
overdid it, I think. It has always been the 'fun' of 
paint to me. I 'm tired of saying that rich and vulgar 
people are rich and vulgar. It 's so obvious and silly. 
There 's something else I want to say, something of more 
permanent value. It 's strange that you should have 
had — the same call, for I 've thought of you a lot during 
these years. . . . ^May I have some of your John Cotton ? 

"Yes," he repeated, "writing is a poor business. You 
may say a face is ' beautiful, ' and some one with imagina- 
tion conceives a beautiful face, but you can't make a 
beautiful face in words. You can say the eyes are like a 
gazelle's, or the head like a Leonardo da Vinci, or the 
nose is retrousse or some silly expression like that, but 
you can't arrest some supreme moment or expression of 
life and fix it. You can ramble on and spend half your 
life setting something down, as you call it, but when it 's 
done it takes people a month to read it. And they road 
it in various moods, and go to sleep and forget most of it, 
and lose the shape, or jibe at it on account of some sen- 
tence that offends them. Painting does its work like a 
knife. You spend a month on a work, and the result is 
achieved in a coup d'ocU. You see it all at once and 
can't pretend not to. Did I ever tell you of my old 
friend. Dr. Paes?" 

I shook my head and Braille continued, 

"I met him at an hotel in Alexandria. He was a 
most amazing old chap. T think he was of Portuguese 
stock. He was extraordinarily ugly. He had largo pro- 
truding eyes that looked perfectly fantastic through his 



U OLGA BARDEL 

thick glasses. He was narrow chested and went about 
in the hottest weather with a thick white muffler round 
his neck. I think lie suffered with chronic asthma. He 
talked to me at great length. He talked more freely 
and intimately about love than any one I have ever met. 
He had a theory of what he called ' apotheose. ' He said 
that all life was a dormant condition except for certain 
supreme moments. He took the marriage of the queen 
bee as a basis. How on a certain fine day in the summer 
the queen will leave the hive and fly up into the vault of 
heaven, and all the males will follow her. She goes up 
and up and it is consequently the strongest bee that 
catches her. They have one wild, mad embrace up in 
the blue and then he falls to the earth — dead ! He drew 
human analogies from this. Man is sustained up to the 
age of maturity, he contended, by the subconscious warn- 
ing that this moment is approaching. 

"And then it arrives. Youth meets youth — there is 
the contact. Nothing else in life is of consequence. 
Time ceases to exist ; place and the whole paraphernalia 
of social progress have no significance. Gradually this 
love-phase passes, passion stales, and the conscious- 
ness of time reveals the fact that it is over, and then man 
calms down and prepares for — what do you think? The 
next reincarnation ! He believed implicitly in reincarna- 
tion. He described minutely his own feelings and sensa- 
tions during three weeks of his honeymoon with his wife, 
a remarkably ugly Dutch woman staying in the hotel. 
They seemed devoted. But he told me that after this 
impassioned period everything else is a cunning device 
of Nature to sustain the ego in a state of resignation until 
such time as he or she shall again enjoy the unconscious- 



BRAILLE'S PORTRAIT 15 

ness of time. Time he described as a convention of 
mind, and philosophy and religion as very little above 
alcohol, merely sops to the yearning heart! 'What is it 
you feel,' he said to me one day, 'when you are alone 
walking on a heath in your old age and the wann wind 
beats on your temples? A sudden confidence ! Is it not 
that the normal attitude of the world is that of resigna- 
tion ? Truly ! It is resignation born of the knowledge 
that one will one day again feel the mystic embrace and 
that time will lose its meaning.' I asked him if he 
thought that in his next reincarnation he would have the 
same wife. He said it was possible but not probable. 
The matter did not seem to interest him very much. 
'Besides,' he added, 'one may be born male in one rein- 
carnation and female in the next ! ' By some occult 
method he worked out the fact that he himself would be 
reborn in two hundred and thirty years ' time. You will 
not believe it! He was calmly looking forward to the 
occasion and to the impassioned three weeks that would 
occur two hundred and fifty years hence ! 

"I do not pretend to believe in old Paes' theory," con- 
tinued Braille. "But I do believe, the older I grow, in 
apotheosis ; that is, that one must learn resignation and 
then grasp supreme moments, especially in one's work. 
It is only by its great endurance and its great passions 
that life presents anything M'orth expressing." 

Suddenly he went to the window and pulled back the 
curtain, and sat on the sill. He opened the window a 
little way, for the night w^as warm for February. The 
drone of sleepy London reached us. Vague lights 
flickered here and there, trying to penetrate her thousand 
mysteries, whilst overhead a few pale stars were dimly 



16 OLGA BARDEL 

discernible as though holding an uncertain watch over 
this grim city that they did not understand. 

Suddenly he said, 

"It 's a lovely game ! ' ' 

He did not attempt to explain this cryptic utterance. 
But as one who knew him very well I believe I might say 
that the thoughts that came to his mind at that moment, 
if expressed in his own language, were : 

"It 's a lovely game — thinking and talking about 
people. It 's a specially lovely game painting the silly 
blighters ! "What are they all doing mooning about ? eat- 
ing, sleeping, fighting, making money, making love, get- 
ting into trouble, weaving silly romances ! None of them 
with any very set purposes, mostly doing things from 
mixed motives, good motives and bad motives, but they 
all come into our net in the long run — to be talked about, 
and 'set down,' and painted and given subjectivity! I 
love them all, even the bad ones. In fact I think I love 
the bad ones best, they 're so brave and so unhappy. So 
you need n't look so superior, you silly pale stars ! It 's 
a lovely game ! ' ' 



CHAPTER I 

MECHANICAL ACTIONS 

IN the corner of a meager room in Canning Town a 
child was banging on a piece of iron. The action 
gave the child no satisfaction, for it gave forth a 
hard unmelodious sound, but the day was close and the 
atmosphere encouraged perversity. It was past the time 
when she was in the habit of having a thick piece of 
bread given her, covered with a thin layer of dripping — 
an operation called by the others "dinner." But this 
had not so far taken place. She felt restless and un- 
happy, and the banging on iron seemed in some way to 
fit in with her mood. She was conscious that she dis- 
liked the sound, but she enjoyed the agony of discord. 
She repeated the performance, and then a harsh voice 
called out, "Stop that row, you little beast !" She knew 
that this voice came from a very tall person who was 
called her sister, and whom the others called "Irene." 
She shared this room with Irene. It was their bedroom, 
and their sitting-room, their eating-room, Irene's work- 
room, and on very unique occa.sions — everybody's bath- 
room. In fact it was apparently the only room in the 
world. Other people came into it and made it hotter 
and more uncomfortable and then went out, apparently 
unable to stand it any longer. Tliore were two people 
in particular who came in every night when she was very 

17 



18 OLGA BAEDEL 

tired, and made a tremendous noise and ate food near 
her bed and were in every way most objectionable. 
These were called her "brothers," "Karl and Mon- 
tague." They obviously did not like her, and some- 
times were very cruel. They always referred to her as 
"that something little brat." Karl was the worst. He 
was the eldest, and the noisiest, and the most domineer- 
ing, although he certainly did wear most lovely rings on 
his fingers. Sometimes he would come in in the night 
and behave in a most peculiar way, and she heard Irene 
accuse him of "being drunk." Montague was a little 
quieter in that respect, but he used to make most unpleas- 
ant noises eating his food. There were times, however, 
when IMontague had been almost kind. She remembered 
one day last winter when she had a very bad toothache, 
and Montague had come and looked at her and said, 
"Poor little devil!" She felt that that was very kind 
of Montague, and somehow it reminded her of her father. 
She could remember her father quite well. He did not 
seem so large as the others, and he used to bend over her 
and fondle her, and she always remembered his kind 
watery eyes and the queer way he shuffled about the 
room. Then one day he went into another room and 
"died"; that is, they said he would never come back 
again. She could not bear to dwell on this. It seemed 
so terrible, and so unlike her father. She knew he would 
want to come back, then what was this "death" that 
prevented it? And since then there had been nothing 
to replace those weak watery eyes of her father's, and 
there were moments when she felt the world bursting, 
and she could not stand it. This was one of those days, 
and after a very brief interval she banged on the iron 



MECHANICAL ACTIONS 19 

again. There was a quick movement and Irene's hand 
came crashing on to the side of her cheek, in three rapid 
slaps. "Haven't I told you to stop it, you little 
swine?" The blows stung, but the child did not cry 
out. She just stared at her sister as though surprised. 
She certainly was a queer child to look at. She had a 
squat chubby face with a small nose and a broad chin 
and square cheeks. Her hair, very black and frizzy, 
stuck out in peculiar square masses overhanging her 
shoulders. The neighbors said she was "weird." She 
had gray eyes with unusual depths. ]Most unexpected 
things would frighten her and make her cry, whilst 
chastisement, such as that just inflicted by Irene, or some 
fateful calamity like the loss of a doll or a dinner, would 
merely leave her with that strained expression of the 
face, as though she could not understand. 

There was a somber silence, whilst the elder girl re- 
sumed her work at the table. She was ironing a tattered 
sheet. Olga could never understand why her sister 
wanted to stop in the room always, and do things of this 
nature, and to-day it particularly irritated her. She 
watched her for some time, and then she banged on the 



n-on again. 



"Look here," said Irene, jumping up. "if you do that 
again, I 11 take you up to Uncle Grubhofer, and tell 
him." 

This threat had the desired effect. Olga left her im- 
plements of torture, and slunk into the corner of the 
room. This ' ' Uncle Grubhofer ' ' was the terror of Olga 's 
life. The mention of him reminded her that there were 
other rooms, and that Uncle Grubhofer had a room. 
This room was surely the most terrible room in the world, 



20 OLGA BARDEL 

It was full of great spaces and shadows and boxes and 
things no one could understand. It was where bad 
people went, and Uncle Grubhofer just looked at them 
with those queer dark eyes of his, and they quailed and 
shrunk to nothingness. Irene and Karl and Montague 
were large, but Uncle Grubhofer was vast. He had be- 
sides the peculiar faculty of expanding at will. Some- 
times he would seem to shrink away into being quite an 
ordinary size as he sat on his chair; in fact he became 
even smaller for his face was thin and hollow and his 
arms were very long and his fingers thin and bony, and 
then he would suddenly unpack himself ! There seemed 
to be endless folds of him as he rose up, long lines of 
pendulous clothes draping from unexpected projections. 
One portion of his anatomy seemed incredibly enormous. 
She heard some one say one day that Uncle Grubhofer 
looked like a boa-constrictor who had swallowed a goat. 
She did not know what a boa-constrictor was, but she 
suspected that Uncle Grubhofer must have swallowed 
something tremendous; and she was sure he could not 
digest it, and that was why his face looked so sad, so 
sallow and so terrifying. 

He wore a little round black cap, perched on the dank 
gray hairs on the top of his head which she took to be 
some insignia of power. For she knew that he was 
powerful, perhaps the most powerful person in the 
world, for the others would whisper about him, and 
when there was any dispute, Irene would say, "Well, I 
shall speak to Uncle Grubhofer." She knew that Karl 
and Montague were both frightened of him, and when 
there was no food and no money, as often seemed to be 
the case, one of them would go up to his room, and they 



MECHANICAL ACTIONS 21 

always took 01 ga with them for some reason or other, 
and they cringed and crawled to him. And then Uncle 
Grubhofer seemed vaster than ever. He seemed to loom 
up and fill the awful room. He would shout and be very 
angry, and in the end would give them a small piece of 
silver, for which they had to write on a piece of paper 
a sort of confession. And then he would talk to Olga 
in a terrifying and incomprehensible way. He some- 
how gave her to understand that she was in the w'orld on 
sufferance. That she enjoyed all its delights and benefits 
solely through his kindness, that her father had been a 
"shiftless wastrel" and that one day she would have to 
atone. He made her feel very, very wicked, and she 
would wake up in the night in a fever of terror, believ- 
ing that her uncle had become so enormous that he had 
filled the whole world and there was no air. 

Consequently on this day she had no desire to be taken 
up to Uncle Grubhofer 's room, and she sat stolidly in 
the corner without playing or moving. After a time 
Irene went to a cupboard and cut two slices of bread. 
She put a scrape of dripping on one and gave Olga the 
other, 

"You won't get no dripping to-day," she said in ex- 
planation, "We got to the end of it," 

Olga munched her bread in silence for she was 
hungry, and she watched Irene eating hers with drip- 
ping, and she wondered vaguely why if there was enough 
dripping for one piece of bread Irene should have it 
and not she. It occurred to her to make some protest, 
but the impulse passed, as the bread gradually took the 
edge off her appetite. 

She was so tired of this eternal food struggle. For up 



22 OLGA BARDEL 

to that point, food had been the dominating thought of 
her life. She was practically always hungry, conse- 
quently her mentality was bounded by the desire for 
food. She knew it was the same with Irene and Karl 
and Montague. They fought and schemed for food. 
They suspected each other of getting food on the quiet, 
they begrudged the morsels on each other's plates, and 
she had seen Karl and Montague fight like dogs over a 
piece of fish one morning at breakfast time. It never 
occurred to her to wonder about this. She accepted it 
as the normal course of things. She presumed that it 
was the same with everybody except perhaps Uncle 
Grubhofer, and he, she knew, had lots of food. She had 
heard the others talking about it. They even said that 
he sometimes had hot meat for supper ! It was rumored 
that he kept enormous quantities of food locked away in 
his cupboard upstairs, but he had never, never on any 
occasion asked any one to share it with him. She knew 
as a matter of fact that very often when he was out — 
and he would sometimes be out for days at a time — Irene 
would steal upstairs and creep into his room and poke 
about. Olga did not know whether she found any food 
there, but she certainly never brought any down. One 
day Olga followed her on tiptoe and tried to see, but 
Irene had shut the door. She came out rather suddenly, 
and Olga had the idea that she was eating. She looked 
very scared and angry at seeing Olga, and slapped her 
and called her ''a prying little brat" and worse things. 
Other people lived in the house too, but they were all 
entirely under the rule of Uncle Grubhofer, and he could 
turn them out if he liked, and tell them never to re- 
turn. 



MECHANICAL ACTIONS 23 

There was a brass plate outside the door that told you 
all about it. On it was written, *' Julius Grubhofer, 
agent for Ochs, Boellman & Co., wire springs and me- 
chanical actions." Of course she could not read, and no 
one had ever read this out to her, but she believed it was 
a proclamation that drew the attention of the world to 
the fact that Uncle Grubhofer was a person of tremen- 
dous importance. Sometimes other important people 
would come, and they would go up to Uncle Grubhofer 's 
room and stop there a long time, and most peculiar 
noises came from there, noises that excited her and made 
her want to brave the terrors of the room and go in and 
see what it was that caused it. But this she knew would 
be courting unspeakable terrors. And then Uncle Grub- 
hofer would go out with the other important people, and 
sometimes he would not come back for days. And then 
more large cases would arrive. She believed he went out 
and collected food and it was brought up in the cases 
and stored awa}^ for him. But what was it that made 
the peculiar noises? 

She sat in the gloomy corner of the room and pondered 
over these things, and then she suddenly remembered 
a fact that Irene had probably forgotten. Uncle Grub- 
hofer had gone out that morning, and she had heard 
Irene say that he was not coming back till to-night. A 
sudden idea occurred to Olga. She watched her sister 
for some time in silence, and then she got up and casu- 
ally left the room. She listened outside and assured her- 
self that Irene was still at work, and then she crept 
upstairs. Her heart was beating very fast, and she 
felt that she was on the eve of some tremendous ad- 
venture. She arrived outside Uncle Grubhofer 's room. 



24 OLGA BARDEL 

There was no sound. Uncle Grubhofer had all that 
floor to himself, whilst on the floor above lived a very 
kind lady they called ''Miss Merson." She was out all 
day, and they said that she was a ''school teacher." 
Whenever she passed Olga she always smiled kindly and 
had once given her a biscuit, and patted her head and 
called her "You poor queer little thing," She would 
be out now, so there would be no one at all in this part 
of the house. She put her hand on Uncle Grubhofer 's 
door handle. She felt terribly frightened but she 
thought to herself, "It won't look so terrible now. It 's 
daylight. ' ' 

She turned the handle and the door gave. She peeped 
in, trembling in every limb. She quite expected to see 
Uncle Grubhofer there after all, looking larger than 
ever with his huge devouring eyes on her. But the room 
was apparently empty. She left the door open so that 
she had the means of a rapid exit at hand in case it 
were needed. She crept into the room and peered round. 
She went on tiptoe and looked carefully behind all the 
boxes and cases. No! there was not the slightest sign 
of life. She went back and shut the door very quietly 
and then stood by it. And then a fearful dread came 
to her. She was all alone in the most terrible room in 
the world. It was true it was daylight, but there were 
so many cupboards and boxes and most of them locked, 
supposing some one sprang out! She stood for a long 
time by the door, afraid to move. And then she began 
wondering where he kept the food. The restless spirit 
of adventure, born of the torrid day, gave her a new 
impulse. She tiptoed across the floor once more. There 
was a large sort of cupboard with a lot of small drawers. 



MECHANICAL ACTIONS 25 

She tried them. They were all locked. She tried other 
boxes. They too seemed nailed up or in other ways 
inaccessible. At last she found one box lying on the 
floor with a lid that had been apparently wrenched open 
and was lying loose. She eagerly looked inside. There 
was no food there, but there were most peculiar looking 
things. Very long coils of bright wire on different 
metals twisted about in most remarkable ways. She 
looked at them and thought they were very prett}'' but 
somehow dangerous looking. Then she touched them. 
She found that certain parts of them made sounds, the 
sounds varied according to where she touched them. It 
was a glorious discovery ! 

She sat on the floor and groped among the straw, pull- 
ing at the wires. Some of the sounds were most melodi- 
ous and pleasant, and others less so. She did it very 
quietly, for she was afraid that Irene might hear her, 
and she waited for some time after her first attempt. 
But there was no interruption. Then she resumed. She 
forgot all about her search for food. She became ab- 
sorbed in her hunt for satisfying sounds. She soon 
found that it was not only ivhere she touched the wires, 
but the way in which she touched them that made the 
different sounds. In a short time she became entirely 
engrossed. It was an entrancing experience. She never 
thought the world contained such joys. She discovered 
that she liked plucking some of the wires in combination, 
and tried to find out which they were that gave her so 
much satisfaction. She lost all consciousness of time, 
when suddenly the world came crashing about her ears. 
A door slammed. She looked up and realized where she 
was, and there stood Irene, her eyes blazing! 



26 OLGA BARDEL 

"You little devil!" she shrieked. "What do you 
mean?" A heavy hand was laid on her shoulder, and 
the other proceeded to deliver chastisement all over her 
body. She was dragged from the floor, and bundled 
out of the- room. "I '11 teach you, you little swine ! ' ' 
cried her sister. "Playing with Uncle Grubhofer's 
things ! If he 'd come in and caught you, it would have 
been a nice thing, would n 't it ? " 

Olga went to bed that night sore and bruised and 
hungry, but something within her arose, some conscious 
force struggling to soothe her, to palliate the gods of 
warring oppression, as though she had found something 
that the others could not take from her. She was dimly 
conscious at some strange hour of the night of seeing 
Karl reel into the room. He looked very ugly by the 
dim light of the gas flare. He moved about in a spas- 
modic, jerky fashion and breathed heavily, and ate a 
piece of cheese that he found in the cupboard. He sat 
on her bed with a jerk, and took his boots off and flung 
them with great violence and excess of noise on the bare 
boards. Irene woke up and roared at him. She heard 
him telling Irene in a thick voice "to go to the devil!" 
and then he banged out of the room and went down- 
stairs; for he and Montague slept in a room that Olga 
had occasionally visited in the basement. She heard 
Irene muttering to herself and then another door bang- 
ing downstairs. And then things quieted down, and 
Olga became conscious of the astounding beauty of 
silence. All day long her nerves were jarred by un- 
pleasant sounds and voices, but now she could be quite 
quiet, and it was very nice to be conscious of being quiet. 
" It is a pity, ' ' she thought, ' ' that people make unpleas- 



MECHANICAL ACTIONS 27 

ant noises." And then through her mind kept running 
some of the nice sounds she had made with the strings. 
On the morrow Irene seemed peculiarly bad tempered, 
and food was grudgingly administered to her. She 
played in the corner and on the staire with a piece of 
box, and the colored advertisement of lamp shades that 
served as toys. But they did not amuse her. She felt 
discontented and restless. About mid-day she heard a 
door bang, and footsteps descending. She knew that it 
was Uncle Grubhofer going out. She darted into the 
room, for she knew that Uncle Grubhofer disapproved of 
"dirty little brats playing on the stairs." She peeped 
out of the door and saw him go down. He had on a 
long black coat that reached to his knees, and a hard 
round black hat, and in his hand carried a small square 
bag. He was probably going to visit some one with one 
of those nice wire things, and going to make the pleasant 
sounds to them. She wondered profoundly why he 
should do this, for she could not conceive Uncle Grub- 
hofer willingly doing anything pleasant to any one. 
Her experience of the world prompted her to imagine 
that there must be some sort of reciprocal arrangement. 
Perhaps they gave him food in exchange for his making 
the pleasant noises. She knew that Uncle Grubhofer 
had talked to her several times in a manner that some- 
how instilled this idea into her mind. People did things 
for people because those other people did things for 
them. This was universal. It applied to every one 
except Olga, who did nothing and was entirely useless 
and unwanted. In this way she was very wicked, and 
her defection could only be atoned for by one day 
making it up by doing a lot of things for other people 



28 OLGA BARDEL 

without them doing anything for her. She was always 
to keep that in mind. 

The day was again sultry and she followed him down- 
stairs and stood on the pavement. She was allowed some- 
times to play down there by the iron paling that railed 
off a deep stone area. This area was partially covered 
in by a broken wire netting on which were dirty pieces of 
paper and scraps of wood and empty match boxes. 
Nevertheless she could see through it sufficiently well to 
observe two very dark windows covered with dust. One 
of them was open a little way at the bottom, and she 
could see the corner of an iron bed in a state of dishevel- 
ment, and the corner of a packing case on which stood 
a broken wash basin half filled with water that some one 
had washed in. By the side lay a piece of yellow soap 
on which the lather had set. She had often looked into 
this room before ; it was the room where Karl and Mon- 
tague slept. She glanced up the street. As far as she 
could see either way were houses exactly like the one she 
lived in. She wondered whether they all belonged to 
Uncle Grubhofer. She looked with a certain pride at 
the brass plate, and she knew it caused a good deal of 
envy among the swarms of children who passed up and 
down. She did not like these children, and she knew 
that they did not like her. Many of them knew her by 
name, and the bigger ones used to tease her, and call her 
"monkey face." That was one reason why nearly all 
her time was spent in the room instead of on the pave- 
ment. These children terrified her. 

Three of them came up at that moment, one large girl 
and two small ones. One of the small ones had a sore 
place on her upper lip that extended to her nostril, and 



MECHANICAL ACTIONS 29 

she was eating a piece of sausage. They all three were 
extremely dirty and the eldest had a mouth organ. As 
they passed, this girl thrust her chin forward and blew 
a wild cacophony into Olga's ear. The sound seemed to 
go right through her. She said, "Don't!" and thrust 
her arm out. At this successful manifestation of having 
caused serious auno^^ance, the elder girl followed it up. 
She put her face close to Olga's and blew for all she 
was worth, and the two smaller ones chortled with de- 
light at the sport. Olga ran away but the elder girl 
followed her, catching hold of her arm and blowing 
louder and louder. Olga saw red. She suddenly kicked 
the elder girl on the shin, and at the same moment 
made a wild thrust at her face, and managed to scratch 
it. The girl screamed and rushed at her, but Olga got 
to the door in time and slammed it. She heard her op- 
pressor banging on the door and screaming, and Olga 
huddled on the stairs. She had never done anj'thing of 
that sort before, and she was very shaken and frightened. 
The elder girl soon gave up her assault, but Olga 
thought perhaps she might still be waiting for her. "I 
shall never be able to go out again," she thought. She 
sat on the stairs for a long time and no one came dowTi or 
went up. She felt a dread of going back to the room, 
and she dare not go out into the street. Then suddenly 
she remembered that Uncle Grubhofer had gone out 
again. She felt the call of that silent room upstairs, and 
those wonderful things that made nice sounds. She de- 
bated the pros and cons, but it did not take her long to 
decide; and somehow Irene's thrashings never seemed 
to hurt her very much. A certain innate cunning 
prompted her to revisit Irene casually, to satisfy herself 



30 OLGA BAEDEL 

that all was in order, and then she crept upstairs again. 
This time the room did not terrify her so much. She 
shut the door and made for the box. It was still there. 
In a few minutes she was indulging in the delights of 
yesterday. But alas! they were shorter lived. Irene 
heard her, and in less than half an hour she was receiv- 
ing another buffeting. ''I '11 skin you alive," shrieked 
her sister. ' ' How dare you ! after what I told you yes- 
terday ! ' ' 

Olga bore her punishment with a stoic indifference. 
She had allowed for it, when setting out on her ad- 
venture. 

At five o'clock that same afternoon, Irene found her 
there again ! The matter became incomprehensible. 
What could she do beyond thrashing the child? She 
discussed the matter with Karl and Montague that 
evening. Karl took the matter in hand. He told Olga 
that if she did it again, he would deal with her. Did 
she realize that by playing the fool with Uncle Grub- 
hofer's property she ran the risk of getting the whole 
family turned out? or in any case of having to buy a 
key for the room which would cost a shilling? Did she 
understand that? He supposed she thought they were 
all millionaires to go buying keys. And if a key had to 
be bought, he knew who would have to pay for it. So 
just let her look out ! 

The next morning at half-past ten Irene found Olga 
again playing with Uncle Grubhof er 's ' ' wire springs and 
mechanical actions." 

Karl came home very late that night and had been 
drinking, and when Irene reported the matter to him 



MECHANICAL ACTIONS 31 

he thrashed the little girl with such frenzied spite that 
even Irene had to interfere. 

The next afternoon Irene was at work when suddenly 
she heard a now familiar sound of wires twanging. She 
was frightened. She could not understand. She could 
not remember any previous occasion when the little 
ogre had positively ignored beatings and commands. In 
some curious way she had always felt a little frightened 
of this small sister. She had such a curious way of 
looking at one. She seemed to belong to some other 
world, and Irene had never got over her resentment at 
Olga's arrival, bringing with it a further division of 
already much-divided food. She was nine when Olga 
was born, and the mothering instinct had been starved 
out of her, while the disparity in their ages put out of 
court any communion of interests in common. When 
she heard these insistent twangings repeated in spite of 
many thrashings and threats, she had a sudden instinct 
that the little girl had brought some inevitable and un- 
comfortable element into her life that would never be 
checked except by death. And in that surmise she was 
not entirely incorrect. She jumped up and went to the 
door and listened. And then she thought, "I will let 
Uncle Grubhof er deal with this, come what may ! ' ' 

And so it came about that Olga had a free and glori- 
ous afternoon and evening. She found another case that 
was open and even more wonderful things and wires and 
metals. She forgot all about Irene and Karl and the 
milk which she usually had at six o'clock. The room 
was getting quite dark, and she had found a more won- 
derful thing than ever that had deep vibrant tones when 



32 OLGA BARDEL 

struck with a piece of wood. It gave her a curious 
thrill to do this, and to listen for the sound as it came 
and to hear it die away. She had a curious desire to 
see the sound. She w^ondered what became of it after 
it traveled across the bare floor of the room. Once she 
struck the wire louder than usual, and put her eye close 
to it and peered after the vibration. Her eye wandered 
across the room and suddenly looked full into the eyes 
of Uncle Grubhofer, She screamed and jumping up, 
rushed towards the door. Uncle Grubhofer did not 
move or speak. She gripped the handle and turned it. 
The door would not open, and the key was gone ! She 
was locked in alone in the awful room with Uncle Grub- 
hofer. She instinctively turned to him. His small eyes 
glittered at her with hard malevolence, but he said noth- 
ing. The little girl was terribly frightened. "Let me 
go ! Let me go ! " she shrieked as though he were hold- 
ing her and crushing her. She tried rapidly to imagine 
what he would do. In the riot of dread that followed 
she remembered one thing, that was, that Uncle Grub- 
hofer had so far never struck her. He was the only one 
of them all who hadn't, and yet she was a thousand 
times more frightened of him than of all the others put 
together. Suddenly he said, ' ' Come here ! ' ' She had 
no power to resist. She remembered the remark about 
the boa-constrictor and she was sure that if Uncle Grub- 
hofer had told her to jump into his mouth, she would 
have done so. He pointed to the spot on the floor where 
she was to stand, and then he rose up till his head nearly 
reached the ceiling. He started talking and walking. 
He was like some huge animal in a cage. He waved his 
tremendously long arms and slouched cumbrously across 



MECHANICAL ACTIONS 33 

the floor. When he came to the wall he pulled himself 
up with a curious jerky movement, as though he had 
hurt himself, and then he slouched back. As he passed 
her, he thrust his face forward toAvards her, and showed 
his yellow teeth, which his small loose mouth seemed 
hardly able to control. His eyes rolled with anger and 
hatred. He talked wildly and incomprehensibly. He 
talked about "property." These beautiful things it 
seemed were "property." Property was the most 
sacred thing in the world. To touch the property of 
others was to scorch your soul. One day she would die. 
It might be to-day or to-morrow, and then she would 
go to a place called "Hell." In the dull room fast be- 
coming dark, Uncle Grubhofer gave her a vivid word- 
picture of Hell. It seemed to be a place specially de- 
signed by some accommodating Destiny for little girls 
such as she. It was a place of swamps and darkness, 
much worse than the basement where Karl and Montague 
slept, where black crawling things wriggled over you 
and bit you, whilst hairy monsters with luminous eyes 
hung above you in branches, and jeered at you. This 
went on for ever and ever and ever. 

In the meantime he produced the key. For the rest 
of her time on earth, the awful room with the things 
that made beautiful sounds was bolted and barred to 
her. That night Irene heard sobbing at intermittent 
intervals coming from Olga's corner. It was the first 
time she had ever heard such a thing. She felt an in- 
creased respect for Uncle Grubhofer, but it did not en- 
tirely dissipate her uncomfortable sense of fear of her 
small sister. 



CHAPTER II 



''scales" 



IRENE'S antipathy towards her sister seemed to 
increase. She made the room almost intolerable. 
At the same time the child was afraid to go on to 
the pavement in case she met the big girl with the mouth 
organ. The days were drawing in and becoming colder, 
so the staircase with its drafts and darkness was not a 
pleasant playground. Uncle Grubhofer's chamber of 
magic was locked to her, and over it all hovered the ter- 
rible vision of that land of eternal torments, where ''black 
things crawled and bit, and hairy monsters jeered." 
She had known so little of affection that she was hardly 
conscious of an innate desire for it, but she felt very 
wretched. In addition, the food seemed scarcer and 
more irregular. She woitld sometimes get to such a low 
state that she would think of nothing but food. Once she 
stole some from the cupboard while Irene was out of the 
room, but this led to more violent punishment than even 
her misdemeanor with regard to Uncle Grubhofer's 
"property." Months went by, and she became phleg- 
matic and indifferent, and she had periods of giddiness. 
One day she was standing in the passage down-stairs. 
It was past her bedtime, but she had been "naughty," 
and Irene in a fit of temper had gone out and left her, 
telling her she "could shift for herself." She sat on 

34 



"SCALES" 35 

the bottom stair, and shivered for a long time. She 
never remembered having been up so late. She felt 
tired and faint. She heard some one fumbling at the 
front door with a key. An awful dread came to her that 
it might be Uncle Grubhofer. She stood up ready to 
skurry up-stairs. As she clutched the banisters, a strange 
feeling came over her that the wall and the ceiling were 
going up and up and up. She was just conscious that 
the door opened, and little j\Iiss IMerson — who lived on 
the top floor — came in. She heard her say: "Oh, you 
poor mite!" and then she knew no more. 

When she came to herself again she was lying on a 
sofa in front of a warm fire, and ]\Iiss Merson was giving 
her something hot to drink, that sent a glow through her. 
She felt very comfortable and sleepy. She wondered 
what had happened. It all seemed very strange. Miss 
JMerson stooped over her, and combed her hair. When 
she saw Olga looking about, she said, 

"Well, you little thing, do you feel better?" Olga 
looked at the kind, gray eyes, and nodded. "That 's 
right," said the little lady. "You stop here a little 
while and rest. Don't you bother about anything." 

This arrangement suited Olga admirably. She lay 
there blinking at the firelight. Miss Merson went to a 
writing desk, lighted a lamp that had a shade, and sat 
down and wrote. She noted how quietly I\Iiss Merson 
did this, and how silently she moved about the room. 
She thought — "How different she is to Irene! Why do 
people always make a noise? Why don't they move like 
Miss Merson?" The silence was delicious. This was 
evidently the room they called "the attic," at the top of 
the house where Miss Merson lived. How nice it must be 



36 OLGA BARDEL 

to live up here amidst the splendid silence ! She heard 
the rhythmic movement of IMiss Merson's pen, and occa- 
sionally the dropping of a cinder. She fell asleep. She 
had a troubled dream in which black moving objects in 
waves were moving towards her, but some one was thrust- 
ing them back, and saying — "It 's all right, it 's all 
right ! " At last the same voice seemed to say a little 
louder: "Now, you poor mite, I 'm afraid I must take 
you back to your own people or they will wonder what 
has become of you ! Stay here ; I '11 go down and see if 
your sister is there. She was n 't half an hour ago ! ' ' 
She went out quietly. When the door had shut Olga 
burst into tears. She did not know why, and she strug- 
gled to get them under control before Miss Merson's re- 
turn. She heard talking on the stairs below, and the 
unmistakable voice of Irene in a harsh crescendo. The 
door opened, and the two women came in. 

"What 's been the matter with yer?" said Irene in a 
tone suggesting annoyance. 

"I think she 's quite run down," answered Miss Mer- 
son for her. "I 've been giving her some hot gruel ! ' ' 

' ' Run down ! ' ' exclaimed Irene. ' ' I don 't see why she 
need be ! She never does nothing but play. ' ' The little 
basin of hot gruel still stood on the hob. Irene noticed 
it, and added : " If she had to work like I do, she might 
be run down!" She sniffed and Miss Merson said: 

"Do you think perhaps she had better stop here 
to-night?" 

Irene realized that she was not going to be offered any 
of the gruel, so she answered : 

"No; I think she 'd better come with me. We can 
look after her all right, thank you. " This was said with 



"SCALES" 37 

a certain acerbity that was not lost on Miss Merson, who 
quickly rejoined : 

"Of course! Of course! I only thought it might be 
more convenient for you, and more restful for her, not 
to be disturbed." 

"We can look after her all right," repeated Irene in a 
sullen voice. She pulled Olga into a sitting posture and 
said, "Come on." 

Olga stood up. She still felt very shaky, but she fol- 
lowed her sister to the door. She did not speak or look 
at iliss Merson again, but she was conscious that that 
good lady was helping her out and patting her arm. 
They went down the cold staircase, and reentered the 
room. Montague was there, and asking for his supper. 
She stumbled across the room and quickly got into her 
bed. She shivered, and lay awake listening to the un- 
pleasant noise Montague and Irene made eating their 
food, and they had no sooner iinished than Karl came in, 
and it all started over again. Karl seemed in a good 
temper, and very talkative, and laughed in a series of 
mirthless barks, and then both the men smoked cigarettes 
and made the room very choky. Olga thought they 
would never finish making noises and smells, but at last 
the men went downstairs, and she fell into fitful slumber. 

The next day food had no attraction for her, and she 
was feverish. Miss Merson came in in the evening to 
ask how she was. On finding out how the land lay, she 
brought down a white powder and a little milk, and by 
exercising great tact managed to get Irene to allow her 
to administer it. That night Olga slept well, in spite of 
everything, and spent the next day thinking of her new 
friend and the silent room. A great temptation came to 



38 OLGA BARDEL 

her. Miss Merson was out all day. Why should she not 
steal up and sit in her room? But somehow it seemed 
different doing anything like that to Miss Merson. She 
was bundled to bed before the little schoolmistress came 
home, and she did not see her for several days. 

And then a great and eventful day arrived. Tt was a 
day called Sunday, a day that she always dreaded and 
loathed, because it meant that Karl and Montague were 
in and out all day with their horrible smoke and noise, 
and Irene didn't do any work, and seemed in conse- 
quence to be more cantankerous. It is true that some- 
times on these days food seemed to be more plentiful — 
there was sometimes meat in the middle of the day — and 
on one or two occasions Montague had taken her for a 
stroll round the streets. But these dubious benefits were 
more than counteracted by the noise and general irrita- 
bility of the people in the room, and the peculiar strained 
atmosphere of the streets. It was as though on the week 
days the people were all doing things and forgot their 
wretchedness, but on Sunday they stopped, stared at each 
other, and brooded over the patent misery of their lives. 
They seemed conscious of their clothes, their houses, their 
friends, and their baser desires. Olga did not analyze 
these feelings if she went out for a walk with Montague, 
but she felt that she disliked Sundays, and all that apper- 
tained thereto. 

On this particular Sunday, Karl and Montague had 
gone out together after a late and clamorous breakfast, 
leaving a trail of tobacco and kipper smell, and Irene was 
washing up with a tremendous clatter, and singing in a 
harsh and dreary voice, when there was a tap at the 
door. Irene went to it, and Olga heard Miss Merson 's 



< < 



SCALES" 39 



voice. Irene went outside, and a conversation which she 
could not hear went on for some minutes. At last Irene 
returned, continued washing up, and then turning to 
Olga, she said : * ' Here, you 're going to have your dinner 
upstairs!" She caught hold of her, and made a tenta- 
tive effort at washing her neck. Her hair was hastily 
brushed, and she was pushed outside and told to go up to 
I\Iiss Merson's attic, and, "Mind yer don't fall down the 
stairs and break yer neck. ' ' 

Olga pulled herself together in the passage, and the 
news seemed too good to be true. She could hardly 
bring herself to set forth on such a dazzling adventure. 
She went up the first flight of stairs very gingerly, and 
then a sudden dread that Irene or Uncle Grubhofer 
might appear to drag her back caused her to hurry on. 
She reached the top, and never having been instructed 
in the convention of knocking on a door she just opened 
it and walked in. Miss Merson was writing at her desk. 
"Ah, there you are!" was her greeting, and she got up 
and came over and kissed her, then shut the door. Olga 
said nothing, but gladness shone from her face. 

"Now come and sit down and tell me all about it." 
Miss Merson made her comfortable on the couch in front 
of the fire and gave her an apple. It was an entrancing 
morning. Miss Merson read her a book, showed her pic- 
tures, and opened out a new world to her. It was a 
world of fairies and sunshine and princesses, where 
people all moved quietly, and did things quietly, just 
like ]Miss Merson did. She was sure of that. Then she 
asked her questions about herself, which she could not 
answer. She did not know how old she was. She could 
not remember her mother. She did not know what her 



40 OLGA BARDEL 

brothers did in the daytime. No one had ever taught her 
anything. She did not know her alphabet. To most of 
Miss Merson's questions she just shook her head. But 
she tried to say something about her father. This mat- 
ter obviously upset her, so Miss Merson quickly changed 
the subject. And then after a time Miss Merson spread 
a cloth on a small table, and they sat down and had most 
wonderful things to eat. She felt too excited to eat 
much, but Miss Merson, instead of being pleased at this, 
as the others would have been, seemed quite upset, and 
insisted on her having everything there was. After this 
they sat cozily by the fire again and talked, and had 
another story. But the most amazing and fascinating 
event was yet to occur. After a time Miss Merson 
went to a curious-looking piece of furniture and opened 
a lid on it, and revealed a long row of flat, yellow-white 
things, with black things raised up at different intervals 
between them. She struck these black and white things 
with her hands, and most wonderful sounds came forth. 
She looked round, and caught the intent, eager expres- 
sion on the child's face, and laughed, 

''Oh! you quaint thing!" she said. She went to a 
box and got some music, and put it on the piano. And 
then she put on some spectacles. 

"I don't know whether I can play this," she said. 
"I 'm no performer, but I '11 try." Then Miss Merson 
sat down. She certainly was no pianist, but she loved 
music, and she managed to give performances of some of 
the easier pieces of Schumann and Chopin in a manner 
that gave pleasure to herself in any ease. She played 
for about half an hour, almost forgetting the little girl. 
Then she looked round. Olga was sitting on the edge 



(< 



SCALES" 41 



of the sofa, leaning forward, her large gray eyes sunk in 
the hollow of her chubby pale face, reflecting the riot of 
emotion that flooded her small soul through this new 
world of melody. "Oh, you queer little thing!" ex- 
claimed Miss Merson, and she jumped up and kissed her. 
And then Olga broke forth into a torrent of weeping. 
She did not know why. She simply felt that she must 
hang on to the kind lady and cry and cry. 

' ' Oh, you poor mite ! What is it then ? ' ' Miss Mer- 
son pressed the little girl to her bosom. She felt strange 
emotions stirring within herself. She asked her why she 
cried, but she already knew, and the knowledge seemed 
to her pregnant with significance. She looked at the 
little girl in a new light. It was certainly remarkable. 
She said she would not play any more, and she made Olga 
lie on the couch again, and made her some tea. It was a 
very nice tea. They had bread and butter and jam and 
a cake, and they laughed and talked about all sorts of 
things. Miss Merson did not refer to the piano again, 
and after tea she took her back to her famil3^ She 
wanted to think a little by herself. 

On the following evening Miss Merson gave Irene 
some apples that she said had been sent her from the 
country, and also a cheese. Irene was very surprised, 
but she took the things, her greed dominating her sus- 
picions. She did not like the schoolmistress and was 
jealous of her attentions to Olga, but food was another 
matter. Miss Merson insisted on being friendly, in spite 
of indifference and insult, and she soon realized Irene's 
weak point. She flattered her, and gave her food. She 
even endured having her in to tea one day, and at the 
end of a week was almost in her good books. She got 



42 OLGA BARDEL 

possession of Olga for the following Sunday, and in a 
matter of fact way showed the little girl how to strike 
the notes of the piano in rotation, and then how to play 
a little scale, by turning her thumb under. She noticed 
how quick she was to do as she w^as told, and how well 
she remembered. She wanted to play all day long, but 
Miss Merson insisted on the fairy story, and on meals, 
and talk. Before she went that evening ]\Iiss Merson 
said casually: "You may come up here any time you 
like, dear, when I am out. You might like to play your 
little scales." 

When she got down-stairs Irene asked her what she 
had had to eat. She seemed rather vague about it, and 
Irene's jealousy was once more aroused, until Miss Mer- 
son arrived later and brought her a small pie. 

"It 's very curious," thought Irene. She wondered 
what the game was. People of her acquaintance did not 
give each other food without getting anything in ex- 
change. Olga disappeared early the next morning, and 
Irene traced her up to the attic playing on Miss Merson 's 
piano. The child put up her defense that Miss Merson 
had told her she might. Irene was angry, and then 
realized that after all it kept the little brat out of her 
way, so she allowed her to remain. 

Visions of glorious days floated before Olga. She 
climbed on to the stool and struggled with the notes. 
She had been there about an hour, when the door burst 
open and Uncle Grubhofer appeared. He was in one of 
his most devouring moods. What was she doing there 
making that confounded row — she must clear out at once ! 
If Miss Merson encouraged her in this fooling she would 
be thrown out on to the pavement, piano and all. The 



II 



SCALES" 43 



world came crashing about Olga's ears. She knew that 
resistance was useless. She shut the piano lid, climbed 
down from the stool, and went silently out of the room. 
She spent the rest of the morning down by the front door, 
heaving with remorse and the sense of outrage. She 
felt like going out of the front door and running away — 
anywhere, never to return. It is more than likely that 
she would have put some such action into force had it 
not been for the restraining knowledge that ]\Iiss Merson 
would be back in the evening, and also a sudden recol- 
lection that Uncle Grubhofer went out sometimes for 
days together. She would watch, and wait for him to go. 
She kept up her ceaseless vigil for three days, and 
at length one morning she saw him going off with his 
little square bag. The front door had hardly slammed 
before she darted up, and clambered to her stool. She 
waited for some time in fear lest he should return, and 
then she lifted the piano lid. But she felt distracted, 
the pall of Uncle Grubhofer was over everything, no- 
where seemed sacred from him. She felt the heavy 
gloom of his disapproval frowning across the keys. 
She knew she was being very wicked, and that one day 
she would have to atone for it. The stolen fruits from 
this mystic box would have a terrible reaction. She 
made attempts to practise, and then kept on leaving off, 
and listening. At last she felt too frightened to con- 
tinue, and went and sat on the sofa. She became con- 
scious of another quality in this attic. It was so clean. 
There was very little furniture, but it all seemed so dif- 
ferent from the room down-stairs. It smelt differently, 
looked different, and felt different. She wondered 
whether there were other rooms like this and other 



44 OLGA BARDEL 

people like Miss Merson; whether, in fact, there was a 
world beyond these dismal walls. 

After a time a new courage came to her, and she went 
back to the piano. The nature of her environment 
gradually bred in Olga certain mild forms of cunning. 
It w^as as though some race instinct were fighting to 
assert itself, and we must remember that she came, how- 
ever remotely, from Jewish stock — that stock which has 
proved itself to have the life instinct more keenly de- 
veloped than any other. She showed this cunning in 
various subconscious methods of preserving her health 
in spite of malnutrition and bad air, in being able to put 
on a sort of armor of stoic indifference when swayed by 
some emotion that threatened to overwhelm her. But 
in no way did this instinct of cunning assert itself more 
forcibly than that by which she managed to make use 
of Miss Merson 's piano in spite of all obstacles. She 
developed an almost psychic sense of when Uncle Grub- 
hofer would go out and return. She overcame Irene by 
sheer importunity and indifference to punishment, and 
she even sometimes feigned amusement at the preposter- 
ous antics of her brother Karl, In the meantime she 
played scales and exercises, and Miss Merson helped her. 
Nearly every Sunday she devoted at least part of the 
day to her, and occasionally in the weektime she would 
arrive home a little earlier, and she knew that the little 
girl would be on the look-out. 

She was amazed at the rapidity with which Olga 
grasped the first principles, and the intense way she 
concentrated on whatever she undertook. In a few 
months' time she was playing little pieces on Miss Mer- 
son 's tinkley piano, and was giving that good lady much 



ti 



SCALES" 45 



food for thought. One Sunday she played a tiny piece 
of Scarlatti, which she had learnt from memory. It was 
so musical and good that after she had gone, Miss Mer- 
son thought for a long time, and then she sat do^vn and 
wrote a letter. It was addressed to a Miss Kenway at 
an address in Kensington. The letter was as follows : 

My dear Miss Kenway: 

I want to ask your advice. There is a little girl living in this 
house whom I suspect of having talent. She is the quaintest 
thing you ever saw, but her family are deplorable. The father 
and mother are both dead. I understand that the mother drank, 
and the father was a small jobbing tailor. I believe there were 
nine or ten children, but they all died except four, two appalling 
brothers, a dreadful sister, and this little girl. They are, 
of course, desperately poor, and there is a sort of Bluebeard of 
an uncle — the mother's brother, I think — who helps to support 
them. 

I cannot find a gleam of talent, intelligence, or common de- 
cency in any of them except this child. I should be awfully glad 
if you could meet her. I think she would interest you. Might 
I bring her? or would it be asking you too much to ask you to 
visit this slum on Sunday afternoon? I might find it difficult to 
bring her to you, as, if the family heard of it, they would prob- 
ably try and stop my bringing her, out of sheer devilry. Will 
you drop me a card? 

Yours affectionately, 

Eleanob Mebson. 

On the following Sunday Olga peeped into another 
world of romantic visions. She had played her exer- 
cises and her Scarlatti to ]\Iiss Merson, and tliej^ had had 
a nice talk about kings and cities and peoples, when there 
was a knock at the door. Miss ]\Ierson jumped up and 
opened it, and in floated a most radiant vision. She 
was tall, taller than IMiss Merson, and she was radiant 



46 OLGA BARDEL 

with health and nice clothes and cleanliness. Olga had 
never seen two people behave like that when they met. 
They kissed and called each other "dear" and asked 
how each other was in a way that showed that they 
really wanted to know. Then they turned to her, and 
Miss Merson said, "This is Olga." And the beautiful 
vision smiled at her, and said, "Well, Olga, how are 
you?" Olga was too dazzled to answer, but she tried to 
smile back some sort of response. Then the two women 
sat down and talked about her in a nice, kindly frank 
way, and the vision asked her questions without expect- 
ing any answer. It was all done in such a way that she 
did not feel uncomfortable. Then Miss Merson asked 
her to play her little Scarlatti. It seemed a very 
natural thing to do, so she w^ent to the piano and played 
it as well as she could. In the meantime the two women 
carried on a telepathic conversation. They smiled at 
the frail little figure with the fat podgy arms frowning 
with intense earnestness at the keys. Now and then 
when the rhythm was particularly good, ]\Iiss Kenway 
would raise her eyebrows with approval, and Miss Mer- 
son would nod at her. When she played a finger pas- 
sage with unusual brilliance, their eyes would meet again, 
and both women would laugh. When she had finished 
Miss Kenway said, "Thank you, Olga, that 's very nice 
indeed." They made her sit between them and had an- 
other long talk. The conversation w-as mysterious, but 
seemed full of portentous promises. She felt a new 
world dawning for her. 

There was a lot of talk about "Mr. Casewell" and other 
names, and constant references to "Levitch himself." 
There seemed to be a thing called a "method" that re- 



"SCALES" 47 

quired a lot of discussion, also veiled and guarded refer- 
ences to her family. Olga could not follow much of it, 
so she sat looking from one to the other, feeling very 
elated. She realized for the first time that Miss Merson 
must be very old. She had almost white hair. She had 
not noticed it till then. But the contrast was very strik- 
ing. The other lady had lovely, golden-brown hair, 
tucked away under a hat the like of which she had 
never seen. And then she had the most lovely com- 
plexion, clear and pink. Everything about her seemed 
to exude an atmosphere of "cleanliness" and exuberant 
health. She smelt different from anything she had come 
against before. After a time she rose and kissed Miss 
Merson. She patted Olga's hands, but Olga noticed that 
she did not kiss her. There was another long talk at 
the door, and at last she went. 

The room down-stairs seemed more than usually un- 
pleasant that evening, and it was not improved by the 
advent of two young men friends of Karl who played 
cards with her brothers and smoked innumerable ciga- 
rettes. Irene had gone out for the evening. One of the 
young men tried to be amused with her, and called her 
"monkey," and pulled her hair. She did not like him, 
and made herself as quiet and inconspicuous as possible. 
She went to bed without undressing, and later on Irene 
came home with another young man. This led to an 
incredible amount of noise and laughter. They all 
seemed to be there all night. She dozed, but was con- 
stantly awakened by the bark of Karl, and a snuffling 
guffaw of another of the young men, mingled with a 
sort of wheezy giggle that Irene developed. She could 
not recollect having heard Irene giggle before, and she 



48 OLGA BARDEL 

wondered why she should do so to-night. In a half- 
conscious state she wondered whether the beautiful lady 
she had seen that afternoon was only a dream, or 
whether these people were all a dream. ... It seemed 
impossible that they could all be real people in the same 
world. . . . 

A few days later she had the most impressive experi- 
ence that her small life had so far undergone. She was 
fetched in a thing called a "hansom-cab." She knew 
there was something in the wind. For Miss Merson had 
had several interviews with Irene, during which she had 
been sent out of the room. And then Irene seemed to 
have a sufficiency of food, and to be fairly good tem- 
pered. In addition to this. Miss Merson made her a 
clean, cotton frock. And by a superhuman effort she 
had had Olga's face and neck washed, on that particular 
morning. Miss Merson was not there when the great 
event happened, but the beautiful person of the previous 
Sunday herself appeared. There was a few minutes' 
conversation with Irene, and then they went down-stairs. 
Quite a crowd of children had collected to see the cab, for 
it was a unique sight in that neighborhood. As she was 
being put in, she heard one girl ask, ' ' Is she being taken 
to the 'orspital?" — for that indeed was the only purpose 
to which such luxuries seemed applicable. Olga glanced 
at the crowd, and hoped for the first time in her life to 
see the girl with the mouth organ. But to her disap- 
pointment she was not there. The general consterna- 
tion, however, was in some way gratifying. 

They dashed forth at a furious speed, scattering the 
jeering children right and left. In less than five min- 
utes she had reached neighborhoods hitherto unsus- 



"SCALES" 49 

pected. She was rather frightened at the way they 
dashed round the corners, and in and out of the traffic, 
but Miss Kenway talked to her calmly as though it were 
quite an ordinary experience. 

They reached a broad river at last, alive with ships and 
barges. She had hardly time to glance at it before they 
rattled across it over an iron bridge. Then the world 
seemed to assume a different character. There were 
thousands of bright shops, and people seemed gayer and 
better looking. They wound in and out along dazzling 
streets and open spaces, and passed endless other cabs 
and carriages of incredible size and variety. At last 
they pulled up suddenly at a tall house in a quiet street. 
They got out and rang a bell, and immediately a boy in 
buttons opened the door. They went in and were shown 
up-stairs. She heard a piano being played by some one 
with tremendous brilliance whilst they waited for some 
time in a bright, clean room. After a time a girl came 
out of the room with a leather case, followed by a young- 
ish, good-looking man with gold glasses. On seeing Miss 
Kenway he said, "Ah, good morning, Anna!" and Miss 
Kenway said, "How are you, John? This is the little 
girl I spoke of — Olga Bardel." 

The young man smiled at her kindly, and shook her 
hand and said. "How are you, Olga?" What a won- 
derful world this was! Everybody seemed so nice to 
everybody else. They went into the next room which 
was almost bare except that it had a most peculiar look- 
ing piano, low and flat and very large, not at all like 
Miss Merson's. 

"Now, what will you play to me?" said the young 
man in a brisk tone. She only had her one piece, and 



50 OLGA BARDEL 

she sat down and solemnly played it. When she had 
finished the young man threw back his head and laughed 
loudly, and slapped his leg. "Well! well! well!" was 
his only comment. She did not know why the young 
man laughed, but he seemed so kind she was sure he did 
not mean to be rude. He turned to Miss Kenway, and 
another conversation went on very similar to that which 
had taken place between Miss Kenway and Miss Merson. 
There was the same discussion about "methods" and in- 
numerable references to "Levitch himself." One fact 
seemed to be established, and that was that it was no 
good ' ' Levitch himself ' ' hearing her just yet. They then 
retired to a corner and whispered together, and Olga 
thought she heard Miss Kenway say, "Her people, my 
dear, are simply hopeless." After a time they went, 
the young man again shaking her hand, and saying, 
"Well, good-by, Olga; we shall meet again." Then they 
got into another cab and drove to a wonderful house 
in a square overlooking a garden. Miss Kenway opened 
the door with her own key and they went into a bril- 
liant hall. Miss Kenway seemed to expect her to wash 
again, though, as she had already washed that morning, 
it was rather surprising. The washing here seemed to 
take on something of the nature of a religious ceremony. 
There was a room full of marble basins with silver 
taps and lots of different soaps and rows of quite clean 
towels. 

After all this they went into a gorgeous room where an 
old lady in gold glasses was reading a book. Miss Ken- 
way introduced her and the old lady looked at her and 
said, ' ' My goodness gracious, Anna ! What will you do 
next?" Miss Kenway laughed, and they went into an- 



"SCALES" 51 

other room and sat at a table where two ladies in clean 
white aprons handed them most incredibly lovely things 
to eat. It was all rather overpowering, the smell of 
"cleanness" and the things you had to use to eat the food 
with, and the two ladies hovering at your elbow, and 
then the old lady constantly looking at her and mutter- 
ing, "My goodness gracious!" 

Olga was hungry, but too bewildered and excited by 
the pageant going on around her. It was true then ! 
There was a world where people moved quietly and spoke 
kindly, and where Uncle Grubhofer did not hold sway, 
and this world was holding out infinite possibilities to 
her. These people had invited her into it, and been kind 
to her. After the meal, Miss Kenway made her lie down 
on a couch up-stairs, for two hours. But when they 
left her she was too excited to rest. She kept on getting 
up and looking out of the window, and touching the 
objects in the room. She felt an irresistible desire to 
sing and talk. 

At length one of the ladies who had waited at table 
tapped on the door and came in. She called her "miss" 
and said Miss Kenway had had to go out, but she (the 
lady herself) was to take her in a cab back to her home. 
She was very tall and stiff and not apparently much of 
a talker, but when they got into the cab, Olga broke 
forth into a torrent of eloquence, the like of which she 
had never indulged in before in her life. She chatted 
interminably, and was quite satisfied for the tall lady to 
say occasionally, "Yes, miss." The brilliant shops and 
gay traffic flashed by, and Olga kept sa^'ing "Look! 
look!" This was the dominant instinct that possessed 
her — to see this great world, or rather to convince her- 



52 OLGA BARDEL 

self that she was seeing it, and that it was real. She felt 
that in a flash she had peered through the veil of dreary 
circumstance that had always enveloped her, and she 
wanted to engrave this vision deeply on her memory. 

When the cab turned a sudden corner and she recog- 
nized a vista of gray unloveliness wherein her home was 
set, she struggled against the waves of moribund depres- 
sion that seemed to come sweeping through the wretched 
lives of sorrow, threatening to destroy the reality of her 
vision. There were the same swarms of dirty children 
gathered on the roadways and playing on the pavements. 
As the cab drew up she noticed that there was a large 
crowd outside her own house and strange things were 
being shouted and said. 

These children too had had their excitement on this 
mad day, though it was perhaps of a dififerent nature. 
While Olga had been away Karl had been arrested for 
stealing money from a till. 

As she went through the front door she saw the girl 
with the mouth organ grinning at her. 



CHAPTER III 

A FESTIVAL OP DEPRAVITY 

THE immediate purport of this tragic denoue- 
ment in the Bardel family was somewhat ob- 
scure to Olga. But that it was au affair of 
great momeut was apparent directly she burst into the 
room in her new cotton frock. Uncle Grubhofer was 
there standing like some immobile destiny with his back 
to the fireplace. Montague was seated in a corner fever- 
ishly biting his nails, while Irene was walking up and 
down the room crying and mopping her eyes with a ball 
of wet rag. Olga went to her corner and sat on her 
bed. Not a word was spoken. As she had passed 
through the front door the girl with the mouth organ 
had asked with a jubilant voice *'if she knew that her 
brother was a dirty thief and had been locked up?" 
She had but a vague idea of what a thief was, but she 
had heard the children talk in excited whispers about 
prisons. She gathered that thej'^ were romantic editions 
of Uncle Grubhofer 's hell, places of torment for the dan- 
gerous and vile, affairs of heavy doors and clanking 
chains. She was unstrung by the events of the day, and 
the sudden vision of Karl lying in some dark cell without 
food and perhaps being attacked by animals and other 
crawling things, sent a spasm of pity through her. She 

had never loved Karl, but now when she thought of him 

53 



54 OLGA BARDEL 

she could only think of his wretchedness, of the pathos 
of his face expressing unspeakable anguish. She looked 
at the faces of her three relations — all of whom had ig- 
nored her — and she suddenly burst into tears. They all 
looked at her with surprise, and a curious feeling of un- 
easiness seemed to creep over them. Irene stopped her 
crying, Montague stood up and looked self-conscious, and 
Uncle Grubhofer lighted a cigar. Irene had up to that 
point felt important in her grief ; in addition she was tre- 
mendously moved by the whole dramatic situation, and 
excited by the publicity which the affair caused, and 
would cause. But here was a sob coming right from the 
bottom of a heart. She felt that that wretched little 
"scrub" was being in some way superior. And the re- 
flection made Irene furious. She went up to her younger 
sister and struck her with the back of her hand. "What 
the hell are you sniveling about? You take off that 
dress and go to bed," she shrieked. 

The blow seemed to steady the little girl and she did 
as she was bidden. But in the night the vision of her 
new world faded, and she thought only of Karl with 
his pale face pressed against the prison bars. 

During the next few days she was left very much alone. 
The rest were away at Karl's trial. She soothed the 
turmoil of her soul on ]\Iiss Merson's piano, but she did 
not hear from any of her friends. Then on one tragic 
afternoon Irene and Montague came in. They were in a 
great state of perturbation. It seemed that Karl was 
to stop in prison for three months; but what seemed to 
cause them the greatest disquiet was that Uncle Grub- 
hofer had refused to give them money, and now there 
was no money to come from Karl's salary and they were 



A FESTIVAL OF DEPRAVITY 55 

debating where the food was to come from. While this 
gloomy discussion was going on, there was a knock at 
the door and she heard a gruff voice talking, and dis- 
tinctly heard her own name mentioned. Waves of fear 
passed over her. She at once thought of a policeman and 
expected to see him put his head round the corner and 
come in and carry her off. She tried to think what she 
had done. There were many things. She was very 
wicked, she knew. She had played with Uncle Grub- 
hofer's "property." She had been for that wonderful 
ride in the hansom-cab. She had once stolen some food 
out of the cupboard — just like Karl ! That was evidently 
it. She steeled herself for the coming blow. But at last 
the door was shut and she heard the heavy footsteps go- 
ing down-stairs. Irene came in and turned to her and 
said, "You've got to go to school, my girl," and then she 
sniffed, and turning to Montague continued her discus- 
sion of ways and means. 

Olga turned this information over in her mind and 
tried to think what it meant. She knew that those other 
children went to school. Would it be pleasant or un- 
pleasant ? Would she be taught to play the piano ? would 
Miss Merson herself teach her ? or IVIiss Kenway ? That 
evening she hung about very late and managed to catch 
Miss Merson and tell her her news. 

"Ah!" said her friend, "I was expecting that, my 
dear. I expect they will send you to Murford Street. 
I teach at the Collingwood schools. What a pity! I 
should have liked to have had you. Now what can we 
do about the music? Mr. Casewell was quite willing to 
give you lessons, but it is so far. I must talk to your 
sister. ' ' 



56 OLGA BARDEL 

But the talk with Irene was in every way unsatisfac- 
tory. Irene was in no mood to go out of her way to 
pander to silly whims of that sort. Besides, she was 
jealous of the interest these people had taken in her 
younger sister. She insisted on Olga attending the Mur- 
ford Street School, and to every suggestion of Miss Mer- 
son's that might make music lessons possible she brought 
forward some objection. Lliss Merson thought it ad- 
visable to bide her time. 

So, on the following Monday, Olga was duly bundled 
off to attend the Murford Street National School, and 
the experience was more horrible than any she could 
have conceived. In the first place her introduction was 
unfortunate, for almost the first girl she met there was 
the big girl with the mouth organ, and her greeting was, 
"Hullo! dirty thief!" and it is a regrettable comment 
on the standard of education instilled at our elementary 
schools that as long as she remained there she was known 
as ''dirty thief," except to a few of the more charitable 
minded who called her "monkey face." 

The horror of these school days she was never able to 
eradicate entirely from her memory. She was the sport 
and plaything of all those dirty and objectionable chil- 
dren whom she had always avoided in the streets. She 
could not get away from them for a moment. They 
teased her in the playground and played terrifying tricks 
on her in the classroom. Their greatest enjoyment 
seemed to be to try and make her lose her temper and cry. 
She was packed into a class of about forty noisy, quarrel- 
some, embryonic, female hooligans. A thin wan elderly 
woman made desperate attempts to impart unattractive 
knowledge by means of blackboards and slates, and by a 



A FESTIVAL OF DEPRAVITY 57 

system of chantiug in unison. They would all stand up 
and drone together, "Yorkshire — York — Leeds — Halifax 
— Sheffield — Iluddersfield, " or, " Seven — eights — are — 
fifty-six," and one statement seemed as unconvincing 
and incomprehensible as the other. 

Perhaps this thin wan woman — whose name was Miss 
McQuire — was not sure of herself on her knowledge. 
She sometimes spoke in a tired voice as though she were 
not really sure that seven eights were fifty -six, but the 
redundant repetition of the statement by forty young 
voices gave her a comforting assurance. Perhaps she 
only arranged this chanting as a means of defense, a 
method of drowning the restless din with which she was 
otherwise incapable of coping. Olga could not under- 
stand why the same toneless sounds should apply to 
everything. Why not have different tones and different 
notes for different knowledge? "Things keep running 
through one's head," she thought, "but they've all the 
same things." Then the children would be asked ques- 
tions in rotation, and upon their ability to give the cor- 
rect answer, their intelligence, character, and general 
proficiency was measured. 

When she returned home in the afternoon she felt com- 
pletely overwrought and wretched. A listless apathy 
seized her and she felt no desire to work or play. She 
would go up to ]\[iss I\Ierson's room and open the piano, 
but after playing a few scales she would burst into tears. 
Then she would sit in the dark and wait for Miss JVIer- 
son to come home. That good lady was in every way 
sympathetic, but she realized that she was in a very diffi- 
cult position. She discussed the matter with I\Iiss Ken- 
way, who discussed it with Mr. Casewell. Olga was now 



58 OLGA BARDEL 

eight years old and of course they could not take her 
away from school. The question was — how to help her, 
and keep up her interest in music, for they were all 
agreed that the child showed promise. At length an 
arrangement was made. There was a poor but talented 
pupil of Mr. Casewell's who lived only a penny tram 
ride journey from the Bardels. It was arranged that 
she should go to ]\Iiss Merson's on Saturday afternoons 
and give Olga a lesson for a small fee which would be 
paid for by Miss Kenway, or rather by Miss Kenway's 
mother, who said ''My goodness gracious!" 

Miss ]\Ierson broke the news to Olga at the end of her 
first trying week, and her eyes glowed with the anticipa- 
tion of new joy. This pupil turned up as agreed. Her 
name was Rebecca Cohen. She was a nice girl, very 
dark, with a pale fat face. She was not a good teacher, 
not having the faculty of lucid explanation, but she was 
patient and very encouraging. This new force in any 
ease tended to give Olga a renewed interest in existence. 
She felt that Rebecca Cohen was a link to that splendid 
world to which she had paid so brief a visit. 

Since the departure of Karl it was true that the home 
seemed quieter, but the food was even worse and scarcer. 
Had it not been for Miss Merson she would not have had 
the strength to get through the day. And when she 
went up to her room to practise in the afternoon she 
always found a slice of cake on a plate on the piano 
keys. Poor ]\Iiss Merson! she earned the sum of eighty 
pounds a year out of which she contributed forty pounds 
towards the keep of a paralytic brother in Sheffield, and 
yet she always managed to give Olga the impression of 
being a lady of unlimited means. 



A FESTIVAL OF DEPRAVITY 59 

At this time another character appeared on the scene 
in the person of Alfred Weekes, who apparently came 
courting Irene. Sometimes he came and spent the eve- 
ning in their room, in which case Olga was sent up to 
Miss Merson's, or out on to the staircase, or else he and 
Irene went out together. He was a reedy youth, an 
assistant in a tobacconist shop near by. 

Olga did not understand the idea of courtship, and 
she used to wonder why this strange young man was 
invited in and given food, when there was already not 
enough for the others. He would stay unconscionably 
late, and she would go to sleep in the corner to the 
sound of Irene 's special giggle that she reserved for these 
occasions and to an irritating "pat-pat-pat !" She could 
not understand this noise at first, but she found it was 
the result of a curious action on the part of both of 
them. They would stand facing each other and then 
Irene would give the young man three rapid pats on his 
back, and in a moment or two he would say something 
and then return them. They would keep up this recip- 
rocal patting arrangement all the evening, and when it 
became time for him to go the patting would become 
more frequent and more violent, ending in other sounds 
by the door and on the staircase. It seemed surprising 
that Irene should derive pleasure from kissing this un- 
attractive young tobacconist, but such seemed to be the 
case, for when she returned to the room Olga through 
her half closed eyes noticed the face of her elder sister 
looking flushed and happy, and she would stretch herself 
and look at herself in the broken mirror in a manner 
that Olga had never seen before. 

It cannot be said, however, that Irene seemed in any 



60 OLGA BARDEL 

way better disposed towards her. She seemed more ir- 
ritable and unreasonable than ever. In spite of the 
penury of the family she appeared in new gay blouses 
and hair combs, and added to the general melange of 
odors that characterized the room by introducing a sweet 
and penetrating scent with which she saturated her 
clothes. Olga saw very little of Miss IMerson during 
the week — she had secured some evening work that kept 
her out till late at night. 

She lived through the agony of the week, buoyed up by 
the knowledge that Saturday and Sunday would come. 
But the days seemed interminable and exhausting. She 
began to see life as a cruel and terrible business. Her 
visit to Miss Kenway and Mr, Casewell had given her 
some sense of proportion. She vainly yearned for them 
to come again and take her away among people who 
moved softly and spoke kindly, and she could not under- 
stand why they did not. 

The three months of that first term were the longest 
and most trying months she ever passed through. At the 
end of that time, the Murford Street National School 
teachers appraised her the fifth dullest pupil in a class 
of forty dull children. And then to her joy she was 
informed that there was to be a holiday for two weeks. 
The respite seemed too good to be true, and she lay awake 
at night dreaming of the splendid hours she would spend 
with Miss Merson's piano. 

The next morning before she was up Karl returned 
home from prison. 

If the idea of the prison system be to act as a cor- 
rective in any way, it certainly did not succeed in the 
case of Karl. Olga did not recognize him for some min- 



A FESTIVAL OF DEPRAVITY 61 

utes. His face seemed to have shrunk and to look 
pinched and quite yellow, and his eyes looked more shifty 
than ever. His hair was quite cropped and he looked 
ten years older. Irene shrieked and kissed him, but he 
hardly acknowledged her, and he looked wildly round the 
room. "He is hungry," thought Olga. Such seemed 
to be the case. He ate some bread and dripping greedily 
and Irene made him some tea. Montague came up- 
stairs a few moments later and a curiously self-conscious 
greeting took place between the brothers. Karl ignored 
Olga. He seemed tremendously anxious to get hold of 
some money. He said Irene had six shillings of his. 
This she denied, and a very unpleasant scene followed. 
Eventually he borrowed a shilling from INIontague and 
three pence from Irene, and pulling his cloth cap right 
down round his ears he went out. 

This sudden arrival upset Olga. She felt no desire to 
work, and that all her vague plans were in jeopardy, 
and so indeed they were. Karl did not come back till 
very late that night, and then he was very drunk. He 
behaved like a madman. Mr, Alfred Weekes was there 
looking very scared, and also Montague. Karl said 
that everybody was conspiring to do him down. He ac- 
cused Irene of stealing his money while he was away, 
and on Weekes mildly seconding Irene's denial, Karl 
struck him on the mouth and made his lip bleed. He 
said his whole family could go to the devil. Even if he 
had taken a few shillings from the till, why had he done 
it? Simply to keep them. They ate up his salary and 
rounded on him when his back was turned. Pie called 
Irene names, and at one moment turned to Olga and 
said "he wasn't going to keep that greedy little 



62 OLGA BARDEL 

either." Olga cried and he pushed her violently across 
the bed. Montague said "Steady! Steady! don't be a 
sanguinary fool ! ' ' And then Karl flew at Montague and 
the brothers fought all over the room, with Irene and 
Olga shrieking in the background, and the young man 
Weekes trying to get out of the way of the blows. 

Suddenly in the midst of this turmoil, the door opened 
and there stood Uncle Grubhofer. The effect of the 
presence of this ponderous relation was electrical. The 
brothers fell panting apart, while the screams of Irene 
and Olga subsided into stifled sobs. Uncle Grubhofer 
never seemed so enormous as he did at that moment. He 
stood there, looking round without speaking. Curiously 
enough the person who seemed to attract Ms eye more 
than any other was the unfortunate Weekes. Uncle 
Grubhofer looked at him with a melancholy amazement, 
and suddenly said, "What the devil are you doing here?" 

His voice boomed with a kind of sepulchral timbre. 
It seemed to convey the idea to the wretched Weekes that 
the Bardel family was quite capable of conducting its 
own festival of depravity without his assistance. He 
fumbled for his hat, and holding a handkerchief to his 
bleeding lip he slunk out of the room without a word. 
Uncle Grubhofer moved a portion of his person a foot 
or two one way, just to give him room to pass, and then 
the space closed up again like the damming of a river. 
In the case of the Weekes it may be said that it closed 
up again forever, for he was never seen in the Bard els' 
house again. 

After he had gone there was a somber silence. Karl, 
looking sick and faint, huddled against the mantel- 
piece, whilst the others hovered tremblingly in the dim 



A FESTIVAL OF DEPRAVITY 63 

recesses of the room. The whole thing seemed unreal to 
Olga, unreal but unforgetable. She had dreaded the re- 
turn of Karl, but had the idea that three months was a 
much longer period of time. She had never known affec- 
tion from her family, and they had never tried to show 
her that it had a meaning. They had always seemed 
just to happen together like a lot of dogs eating out of a 
plate. After her glimpse of splendid things she had even 
dreamed of escaping from them all. But somehow on 
this evening they seemed to hem her in. They were 
all round her, with the immobile mass of Uncle Grub- 
hofer blocking the door. In after years she vividly re- 
called that moment, for in her immature mind there 
suddenly flashed some premonition that it would always 
be thus. Wherever she went there would always be Karl 
and Montague, and Irene hovering in the other dark 
corners, and Uncle Grubhofer, sphinx-like and terrible, 
controlling their movements. But what impressed her 
in after years was the consciousness that at that mo- 
ment the child knew that in her inmost heart there 
was a force more compelling even than the power this 
old man exerted. It was a certain call of the blood, 
a sort of ingrained sj^mpathy with the abject figures of 
her relations. She knew that she could never eradicate 
this, try as she might. Uncle Grubhofer was speak- 
ing. His voice boomed round the room, and his small 
eyes glittered at them each in turn. He talked of their 
vices with a lingering satisfaction, as though the con- 
sideration of them gratified some inner lust. He might 
have been the arch-priest of some gray underworld re- 
viewing an army of pallid sins. He mentioned names 
that Olga had not heard before, Oscar, Jacob, Ferdinand, 



64 OLGA BARDEL 

Walter, Emmeliue, and Wanda. With a sudden shock 
it came home to her that these names were the names of 
brothers and sisters of hers who had died ! They too, it 
seemed, were the victims of evil vices. They were born 
in sin, lived in sin, and died in sin. The devil's hoofs 
trod them under, as he would tread under and crush 
these four unfortunate remnants. They could never 
escape it. 

A shriek interrupted this peroration and it came from 
Olga. She had suddenly noticed Montague turn very 
white and slip on to the floor. She thought he was dead. 
She imagined that Uncle Grubhofer had cast a spell on 
him, as he would on all the others and destroy them in 
turn. 

''Don't!" she shrieked. "Don't! Don't!" 
Montague had fainted, and it was an action that came 
as a pleasant relief. Uncle Grubhofer disappeared and 
left Irene to bring her brother to. This she did by 
sprinkling him with some of her cheap scent, and then 
Karl had to be got to bed. It was a night in which every 
member of that family suffered an individual night of 
anguish, rocking with their own terrors. Olga was very 
silent and she tried to help Irene get the brothers to bed. 
When she retired herself she lay there wide-eyed all 
night going over again and again all that Jiad taken 
place, and had been said. Then she thought of those 
other brothers and sisters and wondered what they were 
like. She sobbed pitifully and silently. She recalled 
each of the names. Were the boys like Karl and Mon- 
tague ? And Emmeline and Wanda, were they like Irene 
or like her? She thought Wanda was a pretty name. 
She wondered whether she would have liked Wanda. 



A FESTIVAL OF DEPRAVITY 65 

But she was dead; she died in sin, and perhaps even 
now she was in that awful place that Uncle Grubhofer 
had so vividly described to her. 

She thought of ]Miss ^lerson, and almost decided to 
creep out of bed and go up-stairs and find comfort in 
her arms. But the knowledge that she would have to 
pass Uncle Grubhofer 's door lay like a leaden weight 
upon her chest and kept her inert. At last the inter- 
minable night was broken by pale gleams of light through 
the tattered blind. Soon after came the rattle of milk 
carts and all the other inevitable sounds heralding the 
dubious industries of the day. 

She remembered that she was not to go to school, and 
the satisfaction of this knowledge was somewhat marred 
by the fact of Karl's return and the nerve-racking effect 
of the previous night's events. Everything seemed late 
that morning and it must have been ten o'clock before 
she escaped to IMiss IMerson's room. The soiuids of the 
familiar runs and chords seemed soothing to her tired 
frame. She ran her fingers up and down the piano with 
a sensuous thoughtlessness. She was just beginning to 
consider what it was that Rebecca Cohen had told her to 
practise, when the door burst open and Irene's head ap- 
peared, and her strident voice called out : 

"You 've got to stop that row. Karl 's got a bad 'ead. 
You can come down and 'clp me wash up." 

The door slammed to, and Olga rose and shut the 
piano quietly. Some fatalistic sense had prepared her 
for this and she went through the day's drudgery re- 
signedly. For she was now reaching an age when Irene 
began to find her useful about the house, and all the most 
uncongenial tasks were allotted to her. It is true that 



66 OLGA BARDEL 

great cleanliness was not insisted upon, but it was part 
of the contract that they had to keep two of Uncle Grub- 
hofer's rooms in order and to make up his bed and to 
collect the cigar ends and in other ways rectify the ir- 
ruptions of his domestic life. They also had to sweep 
down the stairs, and make some sort of order out of the 
chaos in the basement where Karl and Montague slept. 
And then the front door step was occasionally cleaned, 
and perhaps the most essential work of the day was to 
see that Uncle Grubhofer's brass plate reflected its eter- 
nal splendors to the admiring gaze of the local children. 

All these duties devolved more and more on Olga as 
she became older and stronger. Nor indeed did she re- 
sent them. She derived satisfaction out of the physi- 
cal sense of doing things that were wanted. Her only 
objection was that they came violently and at unreason- 
able moments. Her practising would be interrupted at 
any moment at the urgent command to perform some 
menial task. 

Nevertheless she persevered and that innate sense of 
cunning in this matter did not desert her. For three 
days after Karl's return she was not allowed to go near 
the piano. For Karl stopped indoors and was very 
unwell and truculent. And then he started going out a 
little while at a time. Olga had to dovetail her practis- 
ing into the moments when Karl was out and Uncle 
Grubhofer was out and when she was not required for 
housework. Sometimes this desirable combination of 
circumstances happened, but during the two weeks' 
respite from the agonies of school, it is doubtful if she 
put in eight hours' complete practice. And yet Miss 
Rebecca Cohen was able to report that the little girl, 



A FESTIVAL OF DEPKAVITY 67 

Olga Bard el, was getting on "very well indeed." And 
then the dreaded day arrived when she had to return to 
school, and all its monotonous horrors were repeated. 

In the meantime Karl got another job through the 
influence of Uncle Grubhofer. It was to travel in trin- 
kets and cheap jewelry. He carried a small black case 
and called in at shops, and private houses, and eating 
houses and saloons, and flashed his seductive wares in the 
eyes of all-too-human mortals. It seemed quite surpris- 
ing that a man who had just come out of prison for 
stealing should be entrusted with a case of jewelry, but 
perhaps it only emphasized the amazing power of Uncle 
Grubhofer, flavored with a certain cynical enjoyment of 
the sense of the constant jars of temptation that this 
profession must entail. 

Then followed a period of dismal monotony for Olga, 
broken by a few pale gleams of relief. The din and 
clatter of the school was always in her ears even in bed. 
She found one or two of the girls rather nicer and more 
friendly than the others, but they never became intimate. 
She was always terrified by the tricks they played on 
her, and amazed by their cruelty and roughness. She 
learnt a few facts mechanically like mnemonic tricks, but 
they bore no relation to other facts and did not help her 
to cope with the tribulations of her life. After school 
the home, housework, and the eternal struggle for food 
and petty comforts. She practised in spasmodic inter- 
vals, and IMiss Cohen still continued to come on Sat- 
urdays. Even her lessons were interrupted and inter- 
fered with by household demands. 

Irene had a period of hysterical depression follow- 
ing on the tragic evening when Mr. Alfred Weekes broke 



68 OLGA BARDEL 

off his engagement and "patted" no more. And then 
Montague became very ill and was taken away to a hos- 
pital. He was not expected to recover, but he eventually 
did and returned after many months, looking paler and 
more phlegmatic than ever. Karl prospered in his trin- 
ket profession and became more noisy and domineering, 
and alas ! indulged in more orgies of drink. There were 
nights when she would lie awake and the room seemed 
to become the playground of evil spirits. In the shal- 
low shafts of light she could not disengage realities from 
hallucinations. There seemed to be a wild dance of 
frenzied passions, and at the door the impenetrable mask 
of Uncle Grubhofer with his lips upon a reed. 



CHAPTER IV 
holly's aquarium 

THERE came a great day in her life when she 
was taken by Mr. Casewell to play to "Levitch 
himself." 

She could tell by the way her friends spoke of this 
visit that it signified an event of tremendous impor- 
tance. Perhaps she was a little disappointed by her first 
impression of "Levitch himself"; she certainly did not 
imagine that the little bald-headed man with the short 
neck and the dark eyes, who bustled forward and took 
both her hands in his, was going to have the influence 
on her life that he did. 

She noticed, indeed, that his eyes were very keen and 
kind, and that they twinkled with a certain humorous 
warmth, and that he moved with little jerky actions, but 
there was something too unusual and foreign about him 
to make an instant appeal. 

"He 's like a bird," she thought. 

He led her to the piano with a queer display of cour- 
tesy that she had not observed in any one before, and 
made her comfortable. 

When she had played the piece that Mr. Casewell had 
instiiicted her to, "Levitch himself" threw his small 
head right back and laughed uproariously. She had 
never heard any one laugh quite so loudly or so freely. 

69 



70 OLGA BARDEL 

It was a splendid laugh. It did not surprise her, be- 
cause she knew that Mr. Casewell and all these nice 
people always laughed when they first heard her. It 
meant that they were pleased. She grinned herself 
with satisfaction to think that Levitch laughed. And 
then he came and stroked her hair and cried out : 

' ' Brava ! Brava ! Very nice ! Play me again. ' ' 

And so she played again. She played everything she 
knew, and ' ' Levitch himself ' ' kept on calling out * ' Brava ! 
Brava ! ' ' and laughing. 

When she had finished he spoke to Mr. Casewell in a 
foreign language and seemed very excited. 

As they were going he said: 

"Olga, you shall be a gr-r-eat pee-an-eeste, isn't it? 
Now tell me, do you like apples?" 

She smiled and said, "Yes." 

He took one out of a bag and handed it to her. 

"Apples," he said, "are goot, very goot indeed. You 
must always eat apples, and then you vill one day be a 
gr-r-eat arteeste!" 

He took a bite out of one himself, and continued : 

"Ven you are nairvous or troubled you shall eat an 
apple. You shall eat the skin too, for that is goot. But 
you must not eat the core, for the core will steek in your 
t'roat, and then there will be no more little pee-an-eeste." 
He spoke again to Mr. Casewell in the foreign tongue, 
and then he turned and patted her hands and said : 

" So ! you shall vork hart, and come and see me again 
already ! ' ' 

It was so kind the way he did this, that Olga could find 
nothing to say. She was conscious of smiling through 
her tears. 



ROLLY'S AQUARIUM 71 

lu after-life she often recalled that first advice that 
"Levitch himself" gave her about the apples, and when 
she remembered to follow it, she found it in every way 
beneficial. 

She returned to Canning Town in a very elated state. 
She felt that she was on the eve of some great and for- 
tunate change in her affairs. She could not restrain 
her desire to talk, and she told Irene about the kindness 
of the great professor who had said "Brava! brava!" 
and given her an apple. 

She was conscious after that that conflicting forces 
were at work behind her back : letters passed, and people 
called and talked in the passage outside, and one day, in 
Miss IMerson's room, she was aware of Uncle Grubhofer 
listening furtively outside the door when she was prac- 
tising. 

A week passed, and then one day he suddenly sum- 
moned her to the awful room. He was cleaning his nails 
with a piece of wire filing. He glanced at her and said : 

*'I shall want you to go out with me this afternoon to 
see a gentleman; so get yourself ready by three o'clock, 
and you may have to play the piano, so take your pieces 
with you." 

She protested mildly that she had her appointment for 
a lesson with Casewell that afternoon, but Uncle Grub- 
hofer repeated very distinctly: 

"Irene will get you ready. Be here at a quarter to 
three." 

At a quarter to three, therefore, she reappeared in 
Uncle Grubhofer's room, having undergone a tentative 
operation of cleaning up at the hands of Irene. Uncle 
Grubhofer donned a square bowler hat with his long-tail 



72 OLGA BARDEL 

coat, and a muffler, and lighting a cigar he led the way 
into the street. They walked a considerable distance, 
and then took a tram. The tram put them down at a 
bright corner, which seemed a junction for other trams. 
It was very noisy and gay. There were brilliant public- 
houses and shops and a fried-fish shop, built apparently 
in blue tiles, which announced "SMITH'S FISH 
SNACKS," and then in smaller letters, "Say this 
quickly, and then come inside and order some." Next 
to this was a large red-brick building with columns and 
rounded arches, and in black letters on a mosaic ground 
was the inscription, ROLLY'S AQUARIUM. Outside 
which a very tall, military-looking gentleman in gold and 
blue was bawling, ' ' Now showing ! The Murder of Mrs. 
Quilles! Step inside!" 

They went past this aristocratic person, and down a 
dark passage, and then knocked at a door. Some one 
said, "Come in!" and Olga found herself in a long, low 
stuffy room full of cases and canvas stacks of printed 
advertisements. At one end was a large roll-top desk 
next to a fire, where a fat man with oily fair hair sat 
smoking a cigar. He looked up and said, "Oh, is that 
you, Grubhof er ? Just a minute ! " He took up a pen 
and wrote something down in a small note-book, and 
then, turning towards them, he said, "Oh, is this the 
little girl ? How old is she ? ' ' 

"Fourteen," said Uncle Grubhof er, much to Olga's 
surprise. She was about to protest that she was not yet 
twelve, but Uncle Grubhof er put his hand on her shoul- 
der, and continued : 

"She 's very strong, though — strong as a girl of six- 
teen. You must hear her play." 



ROLLY'S AQUARIU:\I 73 

The fat gentleman grunted as though somewhat skep- 
tical of these pronouncements, and then said suddenly 
to her: 

"Can she play coon music?" 

She had not the faintest idea what coon music was, but 
before she had had time to answer Uncle Grubhofer in- 
terpolated : 

"My dear sir, she can play anything. She can play 
anything." 

The fat man got up and, removing some boxes from 
another corner, revealed an old upright piano. 

"Let 's hear what she can do," he said. 

The business now began to assume some meaning in the 
eyes of the little girl. There was a piano, and she was 
asked to play. She did not know what the significance 
of the demand implied, but she could play, and she 
would. She sat down and played a prelude by Chopin, 
putting all she knew into it. It was the same prelude 
that she had first plaj^ed to "Levitch himself," the per- 
formance of which had made him throw back his head 
and laugh. As she lifted her fingers from the piano after 
the last chord, she instinctively turned to see what effect 
it had had on the fat man. Apparently he had not 
been listening. His shiny red face, with the cigar stuck 
in the corner of his mouth, was gazing blankly at a book 
in which he was busily writing. After a few seconds 
he glanced up, implying that he knew she had finished 
because she had left off, and then he rummaged in a 
waste-paper basket, at the same time saj'-ing : 

"Yes. Can she plaj^ anything a bit brighter?" 

She thought for a moment, and then started playing 
a Chopin waltz. She had only played a few passages 



74 OLGA BARDEL 

before the telephone bell went. The fat man took off 
the receiver and bawled through in a loud voice, ' * 'Ullo ! 
'Ullo ! is that you, Carter ? Oh, well, now look 'ere, I 
want you to find out what date Humphries and Plumb- 
well sent off that cast of the Duchess of Pleads, eh?" 
There was a pause, during which the fat man was ap- 
parently waiting information ; his small eyes wandered 
round the room and suddenly lighted on Olga. 

She had naturally left off at the first crash of the tele- 
phone-bell. He looked at her as though seeing her for 
the first time, and then something seemed to jog his 
memory, and he said in a matter-of-fact way, "Er — go 
on, Miss — er — Grubhof er. We won 't be long. ' ' She sat 
there feeling furious and unhappy. She wanted to cry, 
but was restrained by the presence of Uncle Grubhofer, 
who, she knew, was hovering behind her. She stared 
hopelessly at the piano, wondering whether she had bet- 
ter make another desperate effort to begin all over again. 
She was rescued from her indecision by the action of the 
fat man, who had evidently got the information he 
wanted and entered it in a book. He cleared his throat 
and swung round on his chair and addressed himself to 
Uncle Grubhofer. 

"Yes, well, you know, Grubhofer," he said, "this sort 
of thing 's all right, I expect, but it won't do for here. 
She must work up some coon-music, and — " He paused 
and then, turning suddenly to Olga, he said, "Can she 
play 'As Once in May,' or, 'Thy Lily Lips'?" 

Olga felt her heart beating fast with outraged disap- 
pointment, as though something had gone entirely wrong 
with the world. She said weakly, "No." 

' ' Um ! ' ' said the fat man, and then he ferreted about 



ROLLY'S AQUx\RIUM 75 

under his desk and produced some music. He rolled the 
cigar from one side of his mouth to another, and then 
said, "Let her take these, and work 'em up. And then 
perhaps we can talk business." 

On the way home, Uncle Grubhofer seemed meditative, 
and the next morning he told her she need not go to 
school ; she could stop at home and ' ' work up the pieces 
Mr. Albu gave her." 

These instructions rather excited her. In any ease, 
anything was better than going to school, and perhaps 
she would like the music. But what would Mr. Casewell 
think ? And Levitch himself ? She eagerly unfolded the 
printed matter and scampered through it. She could 
read very well, and yet she could make little of the 
coon-songs, though she thought "As Once in May" was 
rather pretty, and there were several other simple, sen- 
timental little pieces. She played them through sev- 
eral times, and then got tired of them the same morn- 
ing. She sould not analyze her feelings, but she became 
more and more convinced that Mr. Casewell would not 
approve of her playing these pieces; it was as though 
some inner finer feeling were being outraged. ]\Iore- 
over. Uncle Grubhofer was hovering behind the door, 
and once when she threw the music down in disgust, 
and started practising her Chopin, she heard his heavy 
breathing, and she knew that he was in the room. She 
was almost afraid to look round. During the rest of that 
week, for the first time of her life, she almost wished she 
were at school. 

When Saturday came round she was quite surprised 
to find that she was to be allowed to go to Mr. Case- 
well's. Her surprise would perhaps not have been so 



76 OLGA BARDEL 

great had she been allowed to read the note that she was 
given and told to present to Mr. Casewell, together with 
a bundle of music. It ran as follows: 

Mr. Grubhofer presents his compliments to Mr. Casewell and 
will be obliged if he will give his niece, Miss Olga Bardel, lessons 
on the enclosed pieces, and also if he will kindly teach her how to 
play coon music without delay and oblige. 

When Mr. Casewell read this note his nostrils trem- 
bled with a grim defiance. He recognized it as a chal- 
lenge, though he could not have guessed that it was to be 
the prelude to a long and bitter struggle between two 
forces that were to control ultimately what one must 
call — for lack of a less pretentious term — the artistic soul 
of Olga Bardel. He said nothing to Olga, but he seemed 
abstracted during her lesson, and afterwards he 
prompted her to find out what had happened. When she 
told him the whole story of her visit to Mr. Albu, he 
looked grave. Then he sat down and wrote a note, which 
he gave her to take back, 

Mr. Casewell regrets that he cannot accede to Mr. Grubhofer's 
request His lessons to Miss Bardel are, of course, quite 
gratuitous, the outcome of his recognition of the very real talent 
and promise of this little girl. He cannot believe that any useful 
purpose would be achieved by teaching her the accompanying 
pieces or instructing her in coon music, and in both cases it would 
be entirely contrary to his own method of teaching, which he 
must be allowed to prosecute in his own way. 

Mr. Casewell stopped. He was about to sign it, but 
a further idea prompted him to add: 

He fully recognizes that Miss Bardel's talents, as thoy are, may 
be turned to some small commercial advantage, but he strongly 



ROLLY'S AQUARIUM 77 

urges that she may be allowed to continue in her present oourse 
of study for the present, in the conviction that in a short time 
they will be of a lucrative value out of all proportion to any 
temporary rewards. 

After the exchange of these notes there was a lull in 
the proceedings for three days. And then she was taken 
by Uncle Grubhofer to visit a young man in the neigh- 
borliood whose name was Christopher Tilley. He was a 
bright and gladsome young creature, and he called Olga 
"Kiddy." It seemed that the idea was that he should 
teach Olga how to play coon music. 

This he did with a sort of joyous abandon, singing 
and laughing and talking, at the same time. He was 
very impressed with Olga's pianistie abilities, and said, 
' ' You 11 soon fix it all right, kiddy. It 's quite easy, you 
know — syncopated time. Look here, let 's do this 'Moon- 
light Darkies.' Rum-tum-tura-tum, rum-tum-tum-tura. 
Bang it out, you know. This is M'here you get the beat." 
And then he howled to his accompaniment : 

"I 'm waiting for her, 
The little Yoonah gal, 

"Yum-tum-tum-tum — it 's just the rhythm j-ou have 
to remember. You know what rhythm is, of course. 
Let it go, you know, what?" 

She had three lessons from IMr. Christopher Tilley, 
and played coon music quite nicely. And then she was 
taken to Mr. Albu again, to show what progress she had 
made. That gentleman was obviously satisfied. He 
even went so far as to leave off writing in his book while 
she was playing "Moonlight Darkies," and to beat an ac- 
companiment with his pencil on the roll-top desk. 



78 OLGA BARDEL 

After that there was a long and keen discussion be- 
tween Mr. Albu and Uncle Grubhofer with regard to 
terms. It was at length agreed that Olga was to attend 
the aquarium for one week on trial. After that she was 
to receive ten shillings a week — or rather, Uncle Grub- 
hofer was to receive ten shillings a week, payable on 
Friday nights. Her hours were to be from one to six 
one week, with half-an-hour's interval for tea, and from 
six to ten-thirty, the alternate week. 

When they arrived home, Uncle Grubhofer took her 
to his room and gave her a long dissertation on morality 
and life. He drew a terrifying picture of the Bardel 
family, and emphasized all the vices and disabilities of 
each individual member. He spoke of their ingratitude 
to him, and expatiated on what he had done for all of 
them. But on none of them, apparently, had he showered 
such favors and tokens of affection as on Olga. He 
lingered on the question of the expense she had always 
been to him, but now it seemed there was just a small 
chance of her beginning to show just ever so little a re- 
turn for all his kindnesses. She must work hard and 
stick to it, and try and demonstrate that one member of 
the family had a grain of moral decency. 

All of which impressed Olga very much. She had no 
standard of relative values to go by. She believed that 
what he said must be the truth, and she felt crushed and 
unhappy. And the thought weighed upon her that she 
had perhaps no right to go to INIr. Casewell and visit 
these other people. 

When the news reached Miss Merson, that lady did a 
thing she was not in the habit of doing — she lost her 
temper. She went down-stairs and bearded Uncle Grub- 



ROLLY'S AQUARIUM 79 

hofer iu his den. Nothing is known of what took place 
at that interview, but the next morning she received a 
week's notice to quit the house, ''as her room was re- 
quired for the extension of the business of Julius Grub- 
hofer." 

Poor Miss Merson ! She was very upset, and she went 
to see Miss Kenway, but the philanthropist had no work- 
able solution to suggest. Mr. Casewell and Rebecca 
Cohen were also consulted, but on the following Monday 
Miss Merson had to pack her meager belongings into a 
greengrocer's cart, and move further down the street; 
and Olga commenced her engagement with Mr. Albu at 
the aquarium. 

Roily 's Aquarium was a characteristic landmark of 
South London at that time. Its principal attraction 
was its wax works. It had a large central hall with 
recesses all round. Some of these recesses — those for 
instance where a lifelike representation of the very 
latest and most piquant murder was displayed — were 
accessible only on an extra payment of twopence or 
threepence. The charge for admission varied according 
to what was considered the standard of public interest. 
In this connection it is perhaps to be regretted, that 
members of the Royal Family were free and in prodigal 
numbers. They even stood in the hall and on the stair- 
case — the Queen and the Princesses having deplorably 
dirty necks, and their frocks having lost a good deal of 
their early splendor. Famous generals and politicians 
were also free of access to any one, whereas Ben Leatham, 
whose claim to public notice lay in the fact that he had 
strangled Mrs. Quilles in bed, had a recess to himself, 
and was visible only on the payment of sixpence. It 



80 OLGA BARDEL 

is true that one saw not only Ben Leatham himself, but 
what was claimed to be the actual bed and the actual 
rope. There was also the terrifying figure of Mrs. 
Quilles lying huddled under the sheets. It was in any 
case a popular recess and fully justified the manage- 
ment's business judgment in making it the most expen- 
sive. There was also a recess where sat the figure of 
the Countess of Fyshe-Slayce resplendent in diamonds 
and a faded maroon dress. She had been convicted ten 
years previously of putting poison in her husband's 
tea, but the glamour of the romantic episode had some- 
what waned, and one might gaze at her penciled eye- 
brows for a humble twopence. 

From the body of the hall two iron staircases led to 
an upper gallery, where were booths and stalls and a 
place where people shot at moving targets, rabbits and 
lions chasing each other over hillocks. 

This combination of attractions, living and wax, 
seemed to require the chastening influence of melody 
to bind it together, and Olga discovered that her duty 
bound her to sit behind two screens next to the shooting 
gallery and play the piano for five hours on end with a 
few short intervals. The Aquarium was open from ten 
in the morning till ten-thirty at night, but music was 
not considered necessary till one o'clock. She started 
on the following Monday at one o'clock accordingly, 
feeling rather important and excited. Very few people 
came in till two or three, and then it seemed to become 
noisy and tiring. People would occasionally come up 
and peer at her through the screen and say, "It 's a 
little girl!" and then go away. 

She soon discovered that her most trying difficulty 



ROLLY'S AQUARIUM 81 

was to be the shooting gallery next door, and for the 
life of her she could not think why the piano had been 
placed in the noisiest spot in the whole building. She 
would get fairly interested in the slow melody of some 
sentimental song when suddenly would come the sharp 
"pop ! pop ! pop !" 

She felt at times that it was a distraction she might 
have got accustomed to if it had been regular and rhyth- 
mic but it was the horrible uncertainty of when the 
sound was coming, that in a few days produced in her 
the sensation of being struck by a whip every time she 
heard that penetrating toneless snap. 

It was very hot up in the gallery and the time seemed 
interminable, nevertheless she struggled through the 
week with credit, and at the end of that time j\Ir. Albu 
said that he thought ''she would do all right. She must 
get a bit more snap into the bright things, and play 
'Thy Lily Hands' much slower.'' 

On the following week she started in earnest, but her 
interest and enthusiasm had somewhat abated. She 
would start the day well, but after an hour she would 
feel tired and irritable. About four o 'clock an attendant 
would bring her a cup of tea with a thin slice of bread 
and butter poised on the saucer. This revived her for 
half an hour, and she had to flog her energies to get 
through till six o'clock. When it was over she felt 
dazed and weak, and her head throbbed. 

When she arrived home at night, she noticed that 
she was given something definite to eat, some soup or 
stewed potatoes, with occasionally a small piece of meat. 

She was not allowed to visit Miss IMerson on Sunday, 
and spent most of the day lying on the bed. 



82 OLGA BARDEL 

On the following Monday she had to play in the even- 
ing, and this she found more exhausting still, although 
the hours were a little shorter. She relieved an elderly 
woman whom she found playing there at six o'clock and 
then she had to keep going till ten. The air seemed much 
fouler in the evening and there were many more people. 
There was quite a long queue waiting to get in to "the 
Murder of Mrs. Quilles." Once during an interval an 
attendant had allowed her to go in. It had been very 
terrible. She wanted to scream. She had never seen 
anything more awful than the face of Ben Leatham 
stealthily creeping away from the bed with a small 
black bag in his hands, presumably containing Mrs. 
Quilles 's jewels. She did not meditate upon the tragic 
co-relation of jewels and that meager room, she was 
consumed with a violent horror, the thing huddled be- 
neath the sheets ! and more with a sort of intensive, pity. 
She wanted to rush forward to help, to throw her arms 
around it. 

"The Murder of Mrs. Quilles" did not amuse her, 
and when she got back to the gallery she could not 
play "Thy Lily Hands"; it seemed incongruous and 
profane. She felt very upset, and she scampered over 
the keys feverishly, striking wrong notes. In the even- 
ing crowds of young men came, and the "snap, snap, 
snap" from the shooting gallery went on all the time. 

After two hours of it her temples would begin to throb 
with pain. 

On the third evening Mr. Albu came and looked at 
her meditatively, and then he touched her on the shoulder 
and said : 

"Come round and see me at my office at eight o'clock." 



ROLLY'S AQUARIUM 83 

A wave of liope that she was to be dismissed for iii- 
conipetence passed over her, merged with the dread of the 
effect of such a circumstance upon Uncle Grubhofer. 
But her fears were set at rest on entering Mr. Albu's 
office. lie said: 

* ' You 're looking peeky. We '11 go and have some fish. ' ' 

He nodded to her to follow him, and they went out 
through the corridor and entered the resplendent edifice 
consecrated to ''Smith's Fish Snacks." 

This was the first intimation that she had that ^Ir. 
Albu was a person not altogether without a heart. As 
a matter of fact, he was just a type of whom she was 
to meet hundreds in after life; that is to say, he was 
just purely and exclusively commercial, with a pref- 
erence for compromise over any form of tyranny. He 
was a manager of an Aquarium appointed by a syndi- 
cate, and he managed it to the best of his commercial 
ability, regardless of all other considerations. He paid 
Olga what he considered a fair wage as regulated by 
supply and demand, but it was not to his interest or to 
the interest of the syndicate that she should crock up. 
He looked at her in the same way that an engineer looks 
at a machine. If he thinks the machine looks creaky and 
dry, he injects a little oil. In the same way, if the pianist 
is getting run down, he fills her up with "fish snacks." 
And so these fish suppers became quite an institution 
with this strangely assorted pair. 

What impressed her was that during the meal he never 
spoke to her at all. He strode into the gorgeous estab- 
lishment with a splendidly proprietary air, looking 
neither to the right nor to the left. He selected a table 
and sat down, motioning where she was to sit. He 



84 OLGA BARDEL 

would order the fish, and a large cup of cocoa for Olga, 
and coffee for himself, and then bury his red face in 
voluminous newspapers and trade magazines. When the 
fish was brought, he would stretch out his arm and take 
up her plate and press his large flat nose against her 
fish with a ponderous solemnity, as though he were the 
sacristan at some high altar, harboring suspicions that 
the sacerdotal offering had been tampered with by the 
minions of a rival faith. After a few mouthfuls of his 
own fish his red face would again emerge from behind 
the papers, and he would say: 

"Fish all right?" 

Olga would nod and say, ' ' Yes, thank you, ' ' and there 
the conversation for the meal ended. They would be 
out about fifteen or twenty minutes ; and then Mr. Albu 
would look at his watch and say, ' ' We '11 be getting back 
now. ' ' 

Olga found these suppers a great help for getting 
through the evening, and the fish was extraordinarily 
good. It was always fresh and browned over with amaz- 
ing uniformity. And it was a great relief that Mr. 
Albu did not speak. Nevertheless the work became more 
and more of a strain, and she found that when she did 
get home she would fall into a dead sleep for a couple 
of hours, and then wake up and hear the buzz of talking 
and the snapping of air guns, and the tunes she had 
been playing would keep running through her head with 
maddening reiteration. 

She struggled with the torment of this life for nearly 
two months, against the strain of giddiness, and the burn- 
ing temples, and then one afternoon, after starting at 
the usual time and playing for nearly half-an-hour, she 



ROLLY'S AQUARIUM 85 

suddenly threw herself on the keys in the middle of a 
passage and burst into tears. She sobbed and sobbed and 
sobbed and nothing could assuage her. They gave her 
water and biscuits and tea and even brandy, but the tor- 
rent of anguish could not be stayed. Mr. Albu rubbed 
her hands and coaxed her and tried speaking sharply to 
her, but it was all of no avail. At last they sent a boy on 
a bicycle for Uncle Grubhofer. The appearance of this 
relation had an even more torrential effect upon her 
than anything else. She screamed at the sight of him, 
and burst into louder and louder sobs. Mr. Albu said 
to Uncle Grubhofer, in a tone of annoyance : 

"I told you she was too young. You can't rely on 
'em at that age — ^hysterical! You 'd better take her 
home. Here, Dixon, just ring up Miss Foster, and tell 
her to come on at once." 

And so Olga was taken home, still shaking with tears. 
The speech which Uncle Grubhofer thought out on the 
way, epitomizing his sense of the Bardel family's base 
ingratitude, and the lack of character of Olga herself, 
seemed indefinitely deferred, for she sobbed all the eve- 
ning, and, it is believed, nearly all the night. And on 
the morrow an inspector called from the school to know 
how it was that "Olga Bardel" had missed nearly the 
whole term. 

Uncle Grubhofer had been expecting this, but he had 
a shrewd suspicion that the matter had been precipitated 
by "that Mersou-Casewell set." 



CHAPTER V 

CHESSLE TERRACE 

EVERY one in the musical world knows Concert- 
Director John Goldman Pensiver. Assisted by 
an elegant son with manners as irresistible as his 
father's, he occupies the upper part of a large house in 
Gainsborough Square, where he conducts what is — to 
a layman — a very mysterious business. He is sometimes 
described as a "musical-miracle-monger." He speaks 
French, German, and Italian fluently, and English with 
a slight lisp. He is a large, fair-haired man with a 
suave, ingratiating voice, and during the whole thirty- 
five years of his career as a concert-director, there is 
no record of his ever having lost his temper. He accepts 
a very low commission on engagements and he tells 
every one that the musical profession is "in a very bad 
way," nevertheless he manages to keep up the establish- 
ment in Gainsborough Square furnished like an ances- 
tral home, and also a florid red-brick house, surrounded 
by five acres of land, at Hindhead. 

To penetrate the inner sanctum of Mr. Pensiver 's pri- 
vate office without a proper appointment is as difficult as 
the proverbial difficulty of interviewing the Emperor of 
China. 

Nevertheless, in this inner sanctum Olga found herself 

86 



' CHESSLE TERRACE 87 

one day, in company with Uncle Grubhofer. Not being 
aware of the importance of Mr. Pensiver, she was not so 
impressed by this successful intrusion as she was by the 
spaciousness of the apartment and by the overpowering 
magnificence of the clothes of a crowd of people who 
seemed to have collected. The "crowd," in effect — not 
including Olga and her uncle — only amounted to four 
people, but they were people of so much assertion and 
apparent wealth and importance that they gave the effect 
of a crowd. There were Mr. Pensiver and his elegant 
son, both beautifully dressed and both voluble and de- 
clamatory, and two other people, a lady and a gentle- 
man called Mr. and Mrs. Du Casson. This garrulous 
couple were also gorgeously appareled, and Mrs. Du 
Casson rustled as she moved, and Mr. Du Casson creaked 
with stiff shirts and new patent-leather boots. Olga 
became aware of another fact concerning them, and that 
was that they both smelt of scent, and of the same scent. 
She often wondered in after life why it was that this 
fact seemed peculiarly repelling to her. She felt it would 
have been in some way more tolerable if they had each 
had their own scent, but Mr. and Mrs. Du Casson both 
exuded a strong aroma of lily-of-the-valley and an un- 
deniable atmosphere of material prosperity. 

Mrs. Du Casson was large, larger than her husband, 
and she had an unnaturally pink-and-white complexion 
and a wealth of gold-brown hair. She was embellished 
with quantities of small jewelry that glittered from most 
surprising parts of her person. She had small diamond 
ear-rings, and small diamonds and emeralds nestling 
under folds of chiffon and lace on her chest, and glitter- 
ing things at her waist and even on her shoes. Olga was 



88 OLGA BARDEL 

fascinated by the interminable revelation of fresh won- 
ders. She called Olga "dear," and Olga detested her 
from the start. 

Mr. Du Casson was rotund, with curly black hair turn- 
ing gray, and a very black mustache. He wore a per- 
petual, self-satisfied grin revealing most resplendent 
teeth. 

All of these people seemed to be in a high state of ex- 
citement, and they all talked at once and tried to shout 
each other down, with the exception of Uncle Grubhofer, 
who stood moodily in the background and puffed at a 
cigar. 

Suddenly Mr. Pensiver junior opened the lid of a 
grand piano, and amidst the din of conversation she un- 
derstood that she was to play. She took off her gloves 
and obeyed. She played as well as she could, although 
she found the atmosphere extremely disconcerting. Mr. 
Du Casson kept humming snatches of the phrase she was 
playing, while Mrs. Du Casson kept up a running fire of 
superlatives. Mr. Pensiver rustled papers and Uncle 
Grubhofer had an unfortunate habit of clearing his 
throat during a soft passage. Nevertheless when she had 
finished, the company seemed extremely satisfied. They 
all talked at once as before, and Mr. Du Casson came 
over and fondled her in a way she resented. She could 
not follow the gist of the conversation that then took 
place, but just as they were going IMrs. Du Casson said 
to her: 

"Would you like to come and live with me, dear?" 

The question was so unexpected that Olga could not 
bring herself to answer. She merely wriggled and 
blushed, and Mr. Du Casson stroked her hair and patted 



CIIESSLE TERRACE 89 

her once more, and she and Uncle Grubhofer returned 
to Canning Town. 

And then the most surprising thing happened. A 
week later she was suddenly bundled into a four-wheeled 
cab, with a large brown paper parcel that contained all 
her belongings, and sent over to an address near Regent 's 
Park. 

Here she was received by Mr. and Mrs. Du Casson and 
was given a small bedroom at the top of the house, and 
another room underneath where she was allowed to prac- 
tise. She was given an entirely new outfit of clothes 
and most beautiful things to eat. She went to bed at 
night brooding over this amazing change in her fortunes, 
and vainly trying to analyze the motives of Uncle Grub- 
hofer who should have consented to it. 

The material satisfaction that she derived from these 
changed conditions was somewhat tempered the next day 
by the discovery of the fa.ct that Mr. Du Casson pro- 
posed to give her music lessons. She had taken an in- 
stinctive dislike to Mrs. Du Casson, but Mr. Du Casson 
was to her — anathema. She hated the patronizing and 
endearing way he spoke to her, and in the course of a 
few days she was convinced that his method of teaching 
her was somehow wrong. She could not argue with him, 
but she felt a fundamental contempt for the man and his 
character, and she was astute enough to know that if his 
character was contemptible, his ideas of music would 
probably be not much better. She took her meals — with 
the exception of dinner — with I\Ir. and Mrs. Du Casson, 
and she practised six hours a day. In the afternoon she 
would be sent for a walk in Regent's Park with one of 
the maids, and usually accompanied by a swarm of ex- 



90 OLGA BARDEL 

pensive little dogs that were Mrs. Du Casson's pets. The 
house was tall and gaily decorated, and seemed to be 
the center of a good deal of social life. Noisy dinner- 
parties frequently took place in the evening and occa- 
sionally she would be sent for, and made to play to 
people. Most of the guests seemed to be musicians of 
varying degrees of celebrity, or people of position or 
patronage in the musical world. Some of them were oc- 
casionally sympathetic and kind to her, but the majority 
seemed entirely insincere and treated her like a toy. At 
first the comfort and cleanliness of this new life excited 
her, and in spite of the importunate lessons from Mr. 
Du Casson she went through the day in a spirit of ela- 
tion. But gradually this sense of excitement cooled, and 
when she became tired at night a feeling of dejection 
and loneliness would come over her. She would wonder 
about Irene and Karl and Montague, and would suffer a 
strange nostalgia for the mean streets. She saw nothing 
of her brothers and sisters, nor even of Uncle Grubhofer, 
and she felt surprised at this. Once she ventured to 
speak to Mrs. Du Casson about them, but that lady 
seemed very reticent and did not encourage her enquiries. 
As the months went by the atmosphere of the house in 
Chessle Terrace became to the child more and more in- 
supportable. On a certain day she felt that she could 
not bear it any longer. She found out that the Du Cas- 
sons were going to be out all the afternoon, so soon after 
lunch she slipped out and started to walk to Canning 
Town. She had a few coppers, but she had not the cour- 
age to face the ordeal of taking buses or trains. It took 
her two hours to reach her old neighborhood, and at the 
sight and smell of the dreary streets an unaccountable 



CIIESSLE TERRACE 91 

excitement possessed her. She walked rapidly past the 
groups of noisy children and found the old house. The 
front door was open and she crept in. She went stealth- 
ily up the stairs and then paused and peeped into the 
Bardels' sitting-room. Irene was ironing, leaning over 
a table, and her face was perspiring, and some linen was 
hanging over a line across the room ; some plates and 
saucers unwashed-up from the midday meal were piled 
up on the bed. 

She could not account for the sudden wave of emo- 
tion that swept over her. Irene looked tired and hot and 
unhappy, and so very, very poor. And she was her sis- 
ter ! Why was she bedecked in nice clothes and enjoying 
comfort and good food, while her sister was wearing out 
her life bending over that steaming board ? 

She suddenly burst into the room and threw her arms 
round Irene. Irene screamed and dropped her iron. 
She was very frightened. 

"What is it?" she cried out. " 'Ave they given you 
the bird?" 

Olga did not answer. She clung to her sister and 
cried. 

Irene was alarmed. She pushed her away and said 
excitedly : 

"What is it? What 's the matter? What 'ave you 
come for?" 

But the little girl could not control her violent emo- 
tion, and after a time Irene sniffed and said in a lower 
voice : 

"Oh, chuck it, for Gawd's sake!" 

Then they sat there silently, Olga shivering, and Irene 
looking at her furtively. At last Irene made some tea, 



92 OLGA BARDEL 

and they drank it in big gulps, and Olga observed the 
hungry way that Irene ate her thick bread-and-butter. 
But Irene was not satisfied. It was all very suspicious, 
and when the first cup of tea was consumed, she said 
again : 

" 'Ave they given you the bird?" 

Olga shook her head and her lips were still quivering. 

' * Wliat 'ave you come for, then ? ' ' 

Olga looked down, and at last she said : 

"I wanted to come." 

Irene looked at her quickly. She gulped some more 
tea and then asked: 

' ' 'Ow do you get on there ? Do they give you plenty 
of grub?" 

Olga nodded again, and looked round the room. Sud- 
denly she said : 

"I wish you could go back instead of me," and then 
unreasonably she cried. The whole thing was entirely 
incomprehensible to Irene. She still harbored a sus- 
picion that Olga really had "got the bird." Otherwise 
what was she blubbering about? Hadn't she plenty of 
grub and warmth and clothing? Was there anything in 
this room in Sendrake Road that she was envious of? 
What was the child 's game ? 

"You 'd better go before Uncle Grubhofer cops yer," 
she said at last. She took up her ironing, and was con- 
scious that Olga's eyes were on her. Nevertheless the 
little girl prepared to go, but when she reached the 
door she suddenly turned and came back, and said in 
a quivering voice: 

"I hope you 're getting on all right, you, and Karl, 
and Montague. ' ' 



CHESSLE TERRACE 93 

And then she sobbed very violently. Irene felt a 
curious contraction within herself; it was inexplicable, 
but no one could stand up against the flood of this emo- 
tionalism. She snuffled and turned her back. Suddenly 
she felt Olga's arms round her neck and her lips on her 
cheek. She gave a little whimper and tried to say, "Oh, 
chuck it!" but the words would not come. She pecked 
her sister's cheek in turn and pressed her in a mild em- 
brace, and then broke away and busied herself at the 
fireplace. Olga dashed the tears from her eyes and hur- 
ried from the room. 

She was thoroughly exhausted and footsore when she 
got back to Chessle Terrace, but when she lay her head 
upon the pillow that night, she felt strangely comforted. 



CHAPTER VI 

*'THE ARMENIAN FROCK " 

THE debut of the Child-Wonder, Olga Barjelski, 
at the Queen's Hall was surely one of the 
most incredible things within the memory of 
music-lovers. The public had been forewarned of it 
three months ahead by the following paragraph ap- 
pearing in all the daily papers: 

WONDERFUL CHILD PIANIST 

A Romantic Story 

The famous Professor of Music, Louis du Casson, is to be con- 
gratulated on a remariiable and romantic discovery. Visiting the 
East l*]nd of London a short time ago on philanthropic work, he 
happened to hear a little girl strumming on an old upright piano. 
The performance of one phrase was sulGcient to inform the ex- 
perienced ear of the professor that here was a genius. He made 
inquiries and discovered that the little girl was named Olga 
Barjelski. She is nine years old and the daughter of Polish 
parents who had settled in Turkey. The whole family were mas- 
sacred in a pogrom, being taken for Armenians, except this little 
girl who was smuggled out of the country at night in a basket 
labeled "vegetable produce," and convoyed aross tiie border into 
Greece by an old Magyar woman. This old woman — who has 
since died — was a mystic, and sincerely believed that the child was 
a reincarnation of Chopin, the great Polish composer. She 
brought tlie child to London and gave her into the care of a dis- 
tant relation, in whose house the famous professor heard her. 

94 



(< 



THE ARMENIAN FROCK" 95 



The story, of course, with regard to the reincarnation may or 
may not be accepted by those who believe in these things, but 
there is no doubt but that the child is a very remarkable pianist. 
Professor Du Casson declares that she plays with an almost 
uncanny sense of lxpkbiejsce, which in a child of nine is unac- 
countable. She will have a few finishing lessons with Professor 
Du Casson and will make her d^but at the Queen's Hall in 
October. 

Up to the day she was kept hard at work. She had 
devoted practically the whole year to that one program, 
till she knew everything so slickly that she had hardly 
to think about it. She had broad long fingers capable 
of any pianistic demands, and Mr. Du Casson certainly 
initiated her into the mystery of thrills and effects. The 
paragraphs had appeared in the newspapers at intervals, 
becoming more and more frequent as the day ap- 
proached, working up to a crescendo of large bills, ad- 
vertisements, and lithographs of her portrait, whilst two 
dozen hungry-looking sandwichmen paraded the West 
End for a week beforehand, bearing the insistent posters. 

People who were present at that debut are not likely 
to forget it. The hall was packed from floor to ceiling, 
and though it would be invidious to say that the ma- 
jority of people had paid for their seats, there was a 
surprising number of people of influence in the social 
and musical world. When she came on to the platform 
there was a roar of welcome, mingled with a buzz of ex- 
clamatory conversation and laughter, which subsided into 
a dead stillness of anticipation as she took her seat at 
the piano. She was not nervous. She loved playing 
to people and she knew she could do it. If the Queen's 
Hall had been three times the size, it would have af- 
fected her little more than if she had been playing in a 



96 OLGA BARDEL 

room, providing that the people could hear and wanted 
to hear. And in her platform manner she had been per- 
fectly schooled by Mr. Du Casson. She was dressed in 
a somber but dramatic fashion as became one who had 
nearly been massacred by the Turks. She had on a 
broad black and white check frock, and her long legs 
were in black stockings. Her hair, parted in the middle 
and brushed right back, hung in two huge plaits right to 
her waist and were tied at the ends with scarlet bows. 
She walked quickly on to the platform — some people 
thought that her legs were rather long for nine ! — ^look- 
ing neither to the right nor left till she reached the 
piano, then she gave the people two solemn nods, and sat 
down. There was still a violent buzz of comment going 
on, and the noise of people who could not find their seats, 
and other people hushing each other up. But Olga was 
in no hurry. She took out a handkerchief and wiped 
her hands and looked at the piano. Then she looked 
solemnly round the hall again and waited. She waited 
until there was a dead silence and even then she did not 
seem in a hurry. 

At last as though the music had already commenced 
in her mind, she lifted her arms above her head and 
held them there, and then crashed down upon the keys. 
From that first chord she never lost her grip upon the 
audience. She sat there, the quaint little figure with 
her intent, strained face unconscious of anything except 
the music, and her fat podgy little arms pounding out 
most amazing passages and runs. She seemed to be 
juggling with emotions she could not possibly under- 
stand, and sending vibrant thrills through people at most 
unexpected moments. Sometimes she would play a pas- 



tl 



THE ARMENIAN FROCK" 97 



sage so brilliantly that a lot of them would laugh iu the 
same way that "Levitch himself" laughed. Her tech- 
nique was indeed remarkable, and Du Casson had chosen 
just those pieces that showed it to advantage. At the 
end of each piece she rose solemnly and bowed, and she 
almost ran off the platform between the groups. She did 
not give them a smile till nearly the end, when a large 
bouquet of carnations was handed up. When it was all 
over the applause w^as tremendous, and she played two 
encores (as arranged beforehand with Mr. Du Casson), 
and even then the people recalled her again and again. 

At last she escaped to the artists' room, panting, 
flushed, and wildly excited, and people poured in and 
kissed her and flattered her. Mr. and IMrs. Du Casson 
were in the highest spirits and both kissed her, and intro- 
duced her to a lot of people whose names she did not 
catch. Mr. John Goldman Pensiver cried "Bravo! 
Bravo!" and warmly shook her hand. 

Olga did not sleep that night at all. Everything she 
had played kept racing through her mind. She went 
over her whole program again and again, including two 
slips she had made in the sonata, and a smudge in one of 
the studies. And then the applause! It thrilled her. 
It was very thrilling to have people applauding and flat- 
tering you. She tried to think of all the things they 
had said. She w^ondered whether ]\Iiss Merson was there, 
and Irene and Karl and Montague. None of them had 
appeared, not even Uncle Grubhofer, though she believed 
he had been there, for she heard some one say that he 
w^as by the box-office (wherever that was). She wanted 
to talk to some one, but all the time passages from the 
sonata kept racing through her mind. Life had become 



98 OLGA BARDEL 

very violent, and she was not sure whether she was glad 
or sorry. 

When she came down in the morning the breakfast- 
room seemed full of newspapers and Mr. and Mrs. Du 
Casson were vociferously shouting quotations from the 
various critiques to one another. They both seemed 
rather disturbed and disappointed about the press, and 
were less effusive to Olga than they had been the night 
previously. 

"Oh, well, we shall see what Pensiver can do with 
this," seemed to be Mrs. Du Casson 's verdict. That 
gentleman arrived about eleven o'clock, also with a col- 
lection of papers, and it was largely in the manner with 
which he dealt with these same criticisms that he revealed 
that Napoleonic quality, which gave him a unique posi- 
tion among concert-directors of the time. In the first 
place he railed the Du Cassons and heartened them by 
saying that the critiques were excellent, ' ' could n 't be 
better." He then proceeded to draw up his advertise- 
ment for the next day. 

Some of the papers of course were entirely enthusias- 
tic, as enthusiastic as the audience, and from these he ex- 
tracted the most enthusiastic sentences. Others were 
milder and had to be considerably curtailed, whilst some 
were extremely bad, and it was in dealing with these 
that Pensiver showed his genius. One of the soberest 
journals whose judgment carried considerable weight 
devoted a paragraph to deploring the practice of foisting 
immature artists on the public in the guise of infant 
prodigies, of passing talented children through a hot- 
house training for breeding an artificial technique which 
when it is acquired can have nothing to express. It con- 



''THE ARMENIAN FROCK" 99 

tended that in this present instance of the little girl Olga 
Barjelski — as an exhibition of finger talent and precocity- 
it was indeed remarkable, but as an exposition of the art 
of the piano it was — simply ridiculous ! Mr. John Gold- 
man Pensiver ran his pencil through this and quoted, 
"As an exposition of finger talent and precocity it was 
indeed remarkable" — The Temple; another journal 
had a notice in the same strain, only ending up with 
references to her frock and appearance, and said that 
"certain platform manners cleverly manipulated and an 
engaging personality undoubtedly combined to account 
for the tumultuous applause that the friendly audience 
seemed to consider that the performance merited." 

From this he quoted, "Engaging personality ... tu- 
multuous applause" — The Meteor. The next morning 
he had half a column of advertisements of press cut- 
tings of a like nature in every London daily paper and 
the leading provincial ones. And the advertisement 
was headed, "Phenomenal Success of the Child 
Wonder." And then followed an announcement that 
owing to the colossal success of Miss Olga Barjelski 's 
debut, Mr. John Goldman Pensiver had the pleasure to 
announce a series of three further recitals in Decem- 
ber, February, and JMarch. 

There was a certain amount of trouble about this, 
because Pensiver wanted to give the recitals at once, but 
Du Casson knew that it was impossible to produce an- 
other program so soon, so December, Februaiy, and 
March were announced, but in the meantime the good 
Pensiver did not mean to be idle or to allow his client's 
protegee to be idle either. He flooded the London and 
provincial press with further paragraphs and adver- 



100 OLGA BARDEL 

tisements. He then approached the secretary of a very 
old musical society whose funds were not in too good an 
order and offered to buy fifty pounds' worth of tickets 
for one of their next season's concerts if they would 
engage Olga Barjelski. We blush to say that this offer 
was accepted. He practically bought another impor- 
tant orchestral engagement in London, and one in the 
North. He then drew up an advertisement contract with 
most of the leading London papers to cover a period of 
six months. He interviewed the advertisement man- 
agers personally, and when possible took them out to 
lunch. When they arrived at the coffee and cigar stage 

Mr. Pensiver would say, "By the way, Mr. , if we 

give you this contract, you might ask your editor to let 
us down a little lightly, you know, eh? Last time the 
tone of your paper was not too friendly if I remember 
rightly." And the advertisement editor, with the bou- 
quet of an expensive port wine still in his nostrils, would 
say, "All right, my dear chap, I '11 say a word about it 
at the office." Every daily paper earns its bread and 
cheese on advertisements, and it is to be deplored that 
the suave suggestion of Mr. Pensiver had its effect on 
the majority of cases. At her next recital a great num- 
ber of the papers noted a marked improvement, and 
generally took her performance more seriously. And 
then people — who in the ordinary way took no interest 
in music whatever — began to say in drawing-rooms, ' ' By 
the way, my dear, have you heard that little girl, Olga 
Barjelski? She 's perfectly sweet!" and the friend 
would answer, "Oh, yes; she 's an Armenian or some- 
thing, isn't she? Nearly murdered! I must go and 
hear her." And then the conversation would drift to 



<( 



THE ARMENIAN FROCK" 101 



the terrible age we live in, but the friend would not for- 
get, and would eventually have to go and pay half a 
crown to hear Olga Barjelski because evenjhodij was 
talking about her. And then the question of the rein- 
carnation of Chopin was discussed and it was definitely 
established in an occult review that one could be male 
in one reincarnation and female in the next. 

Mr. Pensiver did his work thoroughly but did not 
escape trouble, and the trouble originated in this way. 
Uncle Grubhofer had invested £333-6-8 in the syndicate 
to run Olga, but he did not mention to the syndicate 
that he had floated his own share in a separate concern. 

He persuaded a gentleman named Gregory Bausch, 
who ran an agency for dealing in motor accessories, to 
invest a hundred pounds in the scheme, and another man 
named Ben. Carter, who was a pawnbroker and money- 
lender, to invest fifty pounds, whilst two other gentle- 
men whom he met "in the course of business" put 
up thirty pounds each, and also Karl, who had been 
surprisingly successful in his sales of trinkets during 
the last year. It is difficult to know what means of per- 
suasion Uncle Grubhofer employed to get these various 
gentlemen to risk money which they valued more than 
human life, or what papers or securities they held over 
him in the matter, but they certainly took the shares. 

Now when Olga began to be a popular success and 
was seen to be playing everywhere, they began to want 
to know what returns were coming in, and Uncle Grub- 
hofer himself began to be suspicious. It was difficult 
for Mr. Pensiver to explain that one can be a great suc- 
cess and yet not make much money. ""We must wait," 
said Mr. Pensiver expansively. "This next year will 



102 OLGA BAKDEIi 

show." But after a few months Uncle Grubhofer's 
syndicate became restless, and Uncle Grubhofer himself 
became restless, and there were stormy scenes in Pen- 
siver's office. Members of the syndicate followed Olga 
about, and danced attendance at box-ofiSces. They were 
dissatisfied with the hold that Uncle Grubhofer had over 
Mr. Pensiver, whom they suspected of robbing them, as 
so indeed he may have been. Moreover, the Du Cassons 
began to object to these friends of Mr. Grubhofer's 
always being in evidence and asking questions. 

Olga herself was only partially aware of these things. 
She had to work tremendously hard on new programs, 
and also on learning concertos. When she was not work- 
ing she felt bewildered and unhappy. Sometimes she 
would go and hear other musicians play and then she 
was conscious of something lacking in herself. One day 
she heard Harold Bauer at the Queen's Hall, and his 
playing revealed a new world to her. It made her feel 
that she wanted to go away somewhere all alone, and 
think things over. 

At the end of the first year Mr. Pensiver revealed to 
the syndicate that the expenditure had so far been £1135 
and the net takings from engagements and recitals £475. 
He stated that he considered this entirely satisfactory, 
and an extended provincial tour had now been booked, 
from which he expected great things. 

The tour started at Wimbledon, and was to last three 
months, Olga giving a recital practically every night. 
Enormous bills were sent ahead announcing that Olga 
Barjelski, the child marvel, the reincarnation of Chopin, 
who made the sensation of the London season, M^ould 
positively appear on such and such a date. The story 



(< 



THE ARMENIAN FROCK" 103 



of the Armenian massacre was embellished with more 
lurid details, and her own portrait, brooding despoud- 
ingly at the piano, was perpetrated in color. Moreover, 
for this tour she wore on the platform a scarlet dress 
with white embroidery, and a sort of bead head-dress. 
It was Mrs. Du Casson's idea of an Armenian costume, 
"anyway near enough for the provinces." It was diffi- 
cult to know why a little Polish girl should wear an 
Armenian dress when she was trying to escape from 
Turkey, but it was mentioned on the program that it 
was the identical frock she had on when she crossed the 
border in a basket labeled "vegetable produce." 

On the first night of the tour there was an unfortunate 
scene. Karl turned up with Mr. Bausch and another 
gentleman of Uncle Grubhofer's syndicate. Karl was 
drunk, and they demanded access to the box-office, which 
I\Ir. Pensiver refused. They squabbled and called each 
other names in the foyer and in the corridors, and 
ended up with a regrettable incident in Olga's dressing- 
room just before she was due to go on. The child was so 
upset that the recital had to be delayed nearly an hour. 
The police were called in to turn Karl and his friends 
out, and IMrs. Du Casson had to drink a large quantity 
of brandy to steady herself, whilst Mr. Du Casson hid 
till it was all over. Olga was hysterical, and it seemed 
at one time that she would not be able to play at all. 
When the other men had disappeared ]\Ir. Du Casson 
turned up and started coaxing her, and then, when she 
seemed obdurate, his dark eyes blazed with anger, Mr. 
Pensiver came in and fumed, and fussed, and patted her 
hands, and at last Mrs. Du Casson insisted on her having 
a little brandy. It burnt her throat, but it seemed to 



104 OLGA BARDEL 

give her courage of a sort, and Mrs. Du Casson powdered 
her face and pushed her on to the platform. It was a 
wretched evening, and she forgot once or twice in pieces 
that she knew quite well. 

She derived no pleasure from this triumphal tour. 
Mr. or Mrs. Du Casson — and occasionally both — accom- 
panied her everywhere, and a young man from Mr. 
Pensiver's office, and sometimes ]\Ir. Pensiver himself. 
She got thoroughly sick of the train journeys and the 
hotels, and hated the sight of her poster in the streets 
and of her Armenian dress. She lost interest in her 
program, and played mechanically. Nevertheless the 
tour was in some respects a success. The halls were 
nearly always full, and the audience enthusiastic. The 
Du Cassons seemed pleased with her and had noisy 
supper parties, and Mrs. Du Casson occasionally gave 
her money to buy anything she wanted. One day she 
received a letter from Irene which ran : 

Dear Olga: 

I here you are doing fine in the country can you send us a bit 
things are very bad and Montague has got the bird Uncle Grub- 
hofer has moved out let his rooms to some people and too childrun 
he has taking a shop in the Wallace road 

Your affoctionat sister Ibene. 

Olga's first instinct on reading this letter was to go 
straight back home and take everything she had. It was 
her first recollection of Irene making any sort of ad- 
vance to her, and the thought gave her a little thrill of 
satisfaction. On maturer consideration, however, she 
collected all the money she had, which she found 
amounted to seventeen shillings, and decided to send it to 
Irene. She laboriously addressed an envelope and wrote 
a note as follows : 



"THE ARMENIAN FROCK" 105 

Dear Irene 

I was so please to here from you I was sorry to here things 
bad what a pity about Montague getting the bird I hope he will 
soon get in again It is very nice travcUin about I enclose the 
munney I send my love to Montague and to Karl and to you 
with my love 

Your lovin sister 

Olga. 

This letter was written on the notepaper of the King's 
Palace Hotel, Hull. 

A week later Olga received another letter from Irene. 
It was to thank her for the postal orders and to say 
that things were very bad still, and whenever Olga had 
any money would she send it. xVnd so it came about 
that any money that ]\Irs. Du Casson handed to her was 
converted into postal orders, and sent to Irene. 

And then one day she had a letter from INIontague to 
say that he heard she was doing well in the provinces. 
He was out of a job himself, and could she lend him three 
pounds which he would pay directly he got a job ? 

This letter distressed Olga very much, for when it 
came she had not a penny in the world, having just sent 
her last shilling to Irene ; Mrs. Du Casson was not there, 
and Mr. Du Casson having the matter explained to him 
vaguely waved his arras, and said he couldn't do any- 
thing in the matter; she had better speak to his wife. 
This was at Leicester and she noticed that the hall was 
very full that night, and she knew that people paid money 
as they went in at the door. An idea occurred to her. 
She waited till after the performance and then she spoke 
to the young man of Mr. Pcnsiver's. She asked him 
confidentially if he could n't give her some of the money 
which he had taken at the door, as she wanted some to 



106 OLGA BARDEL 

send to a friend. The young man looked puzzled, and 
then laughed, and said he was afraid he could n 't do 
that. He then said that if it was only a small amount 
she wanted of course he would be very pleased to oblige 
her out of his own pocket. She would not accept this 
arrangement, and lay awake that night puzzling over 
the problem of economics. It seemed strange that if 
money were handed in by people who only came to hear 
her play that she could not have some of it to do with 
what she liked. Her musings on this theme were fur- 
ther disturbed by another letter that came two days 
later. It was from Karl. 

Dear Olga 

I expect Uncle G has told you I invested money in your 

career. This quite apart from what I have spent on your keep 
cloths ect. Since investing this money I have had no return 
whatever. I shall be glad therefor if you will make inquiries 
about this as I hear you are making a lot of money and I am 

very hard up. Uncle G has left here. If you cannot make 

that swine Pensiver give proper account perhaps you can spring 
me a bit on your own as I have to meet a bill this week. 

Yr affec: bros. 

Karl. 

This letter seemed to make things more difficult and 
incomprehensible than ever. What did Karl mean by 
"investing money in your career" and "making Pensiver 
give a proper account"? It occurred to her on the face 
of it that there was a conspiracy to rob her brothers 
and sister, and the smug Mr. Pensiver was at the bottom 
of it. It stood to reason that if people came to hear 
her play and paid for it that the money should go rather 
to Karl and Montague and Irene, than to Mr. Pensiver. 



"THE ARMENIAN FROCK" 107 

It was strange that all three should have written to her 
the same week. She dreamed that night they were un- 
happy and that they wanted her. She thought she heard 
Montague crying — it was the most heartrending sound 
she had ever heard. She thought she saw Irene bending 
over the fire and stirring an empty saucepan, and grop- 
ing on the dusty shelves of the old cupboard. She felt 
there was something unjust and terrible about this whilst 
she was living in hotels with everything she could desire. 
The next night she was to play at a place called 
Epsom, and the following night Croydon. She knew 
that they were towns not far from London, and that 
Mr. Pensiver was coming to Croydon. She brooded over 
this the whole of the next day and night, and on the 
day after when they arrived at Croydon she felt she could 
not stand it any longer. During the two days she had 
been smuggling rolls and olives and fruit and any small 
portable food she could lay her hands on out of the hotel 
and concealing it in the small brown bag of her own. 
They arrived at Croydon at four o'clock, and her re- 
cital was to be at eight. They passed the usual display 
of bills heralding the child marvel, and on one hoarding 
she counted fourteen full size colored posters of her- 
self. It was a dull day with a fine driving rain. They 
drove to a hotel, and ]\Ir. Du Casson went to his room to 
rest. Mr. Pensiver 's young man had a good deal to at- 
tend to, especially in view of the visit of his chief. Olga 
watched him go to a quiet corner of the lounge with a 
bundle of bills and papers and sit down, and then she 
followed him. Her heart was beating very fast, but she 
controlled herself with surprising success. She said 
almost casually, 



108 OLGA BAEDEL 

' ' Oh, Mr. Leigliton, could you give me some money like 
you said you would the other day?" 

The young man looked up. 

''Why, yes, Miss Barjelski; how much do you want?" 

This was a difficult question. She wanted to ask for a 
huge sum, two or three pounds at least, enough to keep 
Karl and Montague and Irene in comfort for months 
and months. She hesitated, and to her joy the young 
man said, 

"Would three pounds be any good?" 

She could not control the exclamation of delight, and 
thanked him profusely. Mr. Leighton asked her to sign 
a paper acknowledging the receipt of the sum, and then 
buried his head in the accounts. Olga gripped the sov- 
ereigns in her hand, and went to her room. She put on 
her Armenian dress. She had a very vague idea of time, 
and thought that as it was only afternoon she would get 
back in time for her concert in the evening. She cov- 
ered herself up with a long wrapper and crept down- 
stairs. There were two or three people in the lounge, 
but they did not take any particular notice of her. 
The young man was still bending over his papers. She 
fixed her eyes on his back, and then glided to the door. 
When she got into the street she ran. She asked a 
policeman for the station. It was only five minutes' 
walk. When she got there she had to wait twenty min- 
utes for a train. She sat in a dark corner of the wait- 
ing-room. As she w^as going out to her train she nearly 
ran into Mr. Pensiver and JMrs. Du Casson. They were 
laughing and talking, and a porter was getting them a 
cab. She shrank out of sight and watched them go, 
and then she boarded her train. It seemed a very long 



"THE ARMENIAN FROCK" 100 

journey to London and she began to think she would not 
get back in time for the concert. But to her mind the 
business she had in hand seemed more urgent. 

When the train drew up at Charing Cross it was five 
minutes past seven. She had begun to have some experi- 
ence by this time in traveling and she had changed one 
of the sovereigns at Croydon. She boarded the right 
bus, and then the tram. By the time she reached Can- 
ning Town it was nearly half-past eight. It was very 
dark, and she began to be frightened by her adventure. 
She arrived in the Bardels' street. There were very 
few children about — it was too late for them — and she 
looked at the numbers on the dim doorways. At last 
she found the house. The door was shut. She was dis- 
appointed about this. She would have liked to have 
crept up, and found them all as she saw them in her 
dream, and then to have gone in and put the sovereigns 
down on the table, then have had them fall upon her, 
and kiss her and welcome her back to them. However, 
there was nothing to do but ring, and this she did. She 
rang and waited, but there was no answer. She rang 
again, and still she could not hear a sound. She felt 
frightened, and wondered whether they had all gone 
away. She tried a third time. Then she thought she 
heard some movement on the stairs. After a time the 
door opened. In the dim light she could see a pale face. 
It was Montague's. He peered at her, and said hoarsely, 
"Who is it? What is it?" and then he came nearer, 
and recognized who she was. He did not seem tremen- 
dously surprised to see her. He seemed under the stress 
of some more terrifying emotion. He was trembling, 
and could hardly speak. He clutched her arm at last 



110 OLGA BARDEL 

and said, ' ' My God ! " He pulled her into the doorway, 
and stepped past her, and then he turned and said, ' ' You 
can go up, if you like. I can't stand it. My God ! My 
God ! " He vanished into the night and left her there. 
Sick with fear, Olga groped for the stairs. What 
could n 't Montague stand ? What was happening up- 
stairs? She clutched the handrail and the wall, which 
seemed damp. As she reached the first landing she heard 
shrieks coming from the floor above. She dashed up and 
forced her way into the old room. A paraffin lamp on 
the side table revealed the figure of a woman bending 
over a bed. For a second she thought the woman was 
murdering some one in the bed. She shrieked herself 
and dashed forward, when a hand gripped her by the 
shoulders. She struggled to get free and her cloak 
slipped from her and she stood there in her scarlet Ar- 
menian dress paralyzed with fear. Suddenly something 
of the true position of affairs began to dawn on her. 
The woman at the bed turned sharply for a second, and 
Olga realized that she was a nurse, the hand that was 
gripping her was the hand of Uncle Grubhofer, and on 
the bed lay her sister Irene. In the struggle the sover- 
eigns dropped from her hand to the floor with a clatter, 
and the nurse said, ' ' Silence, child ! " as though she were 
desecrating a temple with the crash of jocund cymbals. 
She sank back to a chair and watched her sister's 
agony. At eleven o'clock that night Irene gave birth 
to a child. The father was a baker named Hazel 1, a 
married man with five legitimate children of his o\ati. 
When the agony was over and Irene had fallen into a 
restless slumber, and the nurse had soothed the queru- 
lous infant, Uncle Grubhofer stooped and solemnly 



''THE ARMENIAN FROCK" 111 

picked up tlie sovereigns from the floor. He looked at 
tliem meditatively as though they held the secret of the 
world's most unforgivahle sins. He held them ou his 
palm, and then looked at Olga. She dare not turn her 
face in his direction. She was conscious of the paralTiu 
lamp flickering and revealing Uncle Grubhofer in spas- 
modic glints, sometimes he almost vanished altogether 
and then he would suddenly loom up, holding the in- 
criminating evidence almost under her nose. She fancied 
at moments that he was smiling as though the vision of 
these two sisters exposed in their individual vileness 
satisfied some bizarre kink in his own nature. At last 
he frowned, and put the coins in his pocket and went 
slowly out of the room. 



CHAPTER VII 



"revolt" 



THE next day Uncle Grubhofer accompanied her 
to Guildford, and he did not leave her for the 
rest of the tour. To her surprise, nothing 
was said to her about her defection. The only difference 
in the arrangements was that Mr. and Mrs. Du Casson 
returned to town and Uncle Grubhofer took their place. 
The tour trailed northwards again, and they visited 
gaunt manufacturing towns. Uncle Grubhofer kept 
close to her. He engaged her room at the hotel and oc- 
cupied one close by. During the day he sat about the 
lounge so that he could see her if she attempted to go 
out. He accompanied her to the concert hall, and was 
always in the artists' room apparently asleep when she 
came off the platform, and then he took her silently back 
to the hotel. He sat for hours over Gargantuan meals, 
breathing heavily, and reading a newspaper, and occa- 
sionally glancing furtively at her. She had never seen 
any one eat quite like Uncle Grubhofer. He would gaze 
at the dish set before him by the waiter for a long time, 
and then he would push it with his fork, and a pained 
expression would come over his face. Then he would 
call the waiter, and talk to him about the dish in a low 
voice, and in the majority of cases send it back with some 

precise but cabalistic instructions. When it was brought 

112 



"REVOLT" 113 

for the second time he would go for it quickly as though 
he wished to catch it at its most supreme moment. He 
would fill his mouth with food and hold his face close 
over his plate, with his napkin tucked into his neck, and 
his small eyes would roll suspiciously round the table. 
He looked dangerous at such moments. Sometimes he 
surprised her by his attention. She would be conscious 
that he was gazing at her furtively with a melancholy 
expression as though the sight of her stirred some quick 
but dubious memories. "When she looked up at him he 
turned away. He drank copiously but only in propor- 
tion to his meal, and never to excess. He would drink 
a whole bottle of hock with his dinner, but hardly ever 
touched spirits. 

Olga seemed to spend months sitting opposite Uncle 
Grubhofer and watching these lugubrious exhibitions, 
and then afterwards would follow tedious train journeys 
in smoking carriages, and another smoky town hemmed 
in by fantastic chimneys and flares. The same posters, 
the child-wonder, the Armenian frock, the same concert 
halls, and apparently the same people. They went 
through Lancashire, Yorkshire, Newcastle, and Scotland, 
and it was eight weeks before they returned to town. 
Olga had received no further letters from Irene or Karl 
or ]\Iontague, and whether they had written and the let- 
ters been intercepted she could not tell, but when she 
began to see the gray outskirts of the big city in the 
early morning light, a fierce excitement seized her, and 
various perverse resolutions filled her small heart. Dur- 
ing all this latter part of the tour she had not been 
allowed to have any money, and she had none now. She 
had been held in a sort of soporific trance by Uncle Grub- 



114 OLGA BARDEL 

hofer, her volition paralyzed by the fear of him. But 
the sense of London gave her courage, she recognized 
its various landmarks as the train lumbered through, and 
the recognition inspired her with dim desires and half- 
formed determinations. In London she knew her way 
about. It was the city of freedom. At the station 
Uncle Grubhofer delayed progress by ordering a prodi- 
gious breakfast which occupied a full hour, and then he 
ordered a four-wheel cab and delivered her at the door 
of the Du Cassons' house in Chessle Terrace. 

So this was to be her home again ! She waited in the 
morning-room. The Du Cassons were not yet up. She 
heard all the usual sounds that characterized the pre- 
breakfast hour in Chessle Terrace. The rushing of 
water in the bathroom, the singing of a maid in the 
kitchen and of a brass kettle on a tripod on the table, 
and Mr. Du Casson's voice shouting to his wife through 
the lather on his mouth and chin, and then the banging 
of a breakfast gong answered by the loud and strident 
yapping of the little dogs as they darted about the hall 
increasing in volume as they heard Mrs. Du Casson's 
metallic voice on the stairs: "Ah, my darlings, did 'um 
want 'ums little breakums then 1 ' ' 

Mrs. Du Casson kissed her effusively, and said she was 
so pleased to see her back, and to know that the tour 
had been a success. Mr. Du Casson followed, and in- 
dulged in many antics of mock veneration and affection. 
They tried to persuade her to have some breakfast but 
she refused, and sat there watching them eat and play 
with the dogs. 

When they had finished she followed Mrs. Du Casson 



"REVOLT" 115 

up-stairs and said to her abruptly, *'Mrs. Du Casson, 
will you give me some money?" 

Mrs. Du Casson started. "]\Ioney ! my dear, whatever 
for?" 

"I want some. I want to go and see my sister. She 
has a little baby." 

" Oh ! " said Mrs. Du Casson with an expression of 
relief. "Why, of course, dear. But you mustn't for- 
get that Mr. Pensiver has booked you for the Royal Tonic 
Society's concert on Saturday. You will have to prac- 
tise, you know!" 

"Yes," said Olga, watching Mrs. Du Casson 's move- 
ments. 

That lady went to a drawer in her escritoire, and 
opened a cash box. Olga noticed that in one section was 
a whole heap of sovereigns and in the other a little silver. 
She took half a crown and gave it to Olga and said, 
' ' There, dear ! Will you be back to lunch ? ' ' 

Olga was a little disappointed at the amount, but 
she said, "Thank you. I '11 try and be back to lunch." 
She then went to her room and changed her frock, and 
washed herself. Within an hour of entering the house 
she was out again in the street. She hurried along and 
jumped on to a 'bus. The day was dull but fine, and she 
enjoyed the journey across London, When she arrived 
at her old home, she rang the bell as before. After wait- 
ing some time a strange woman opened the door, and 
stared at her. 

* ' What d ' yer want ? ' ' she said. 

"Oh," said Olga, trying to pass in, "I want my sister, 
Miss Bardel." 



116 OLGA BAKDEL 

The woman looked at her bad-temperedly. "They 
gorn awy ! Gorn awy months ago ! ' ' 

* ' Gone away ! ' ' said Olga. ' ' Where to ? " 

*'I don't know, 'ow should I know? They 've gorn 
awy, I tell yer. Fetchin' me down with all yer silly 
nonsense ! Why don't yer find aht before you go callin' 
on people !" And she banged the door in Olga's face. 

Olga's heart sank. She stared at the door and 
couldn't believe the story. She looked down in the 
basement, and observed that the room that was formerly 
Karl's and Montague's bedroom was no longer occupied. 
And then her eye wandered back to the door, and she 
observed that Uncle Grubhofer's magnificent brass plate 
was missing. She remembered that Irene had said in 
her letter that Uncle Grubhofer had taken a shop in some 
street. Then she remembered the name, Wallace Street ! 
She moved off, and walked to the corner. She asked 
a policeman if he knew Wallace Street. After mature 
consideration he directed her to the other end of the 
neighborhood. It proved easier to find than the police- 
man's directions had led her to expect. It was a fairly 
respectable street off a main thoroughfare. She walked 
the length of it and at last recognized Uncle Grubhofer's 
brass plate. The plate glass window of the shop was 
painted brown up to a certain height, and had gold let- 
tering on it, identical with that on the brass plate. There 
was a swing door and the evidences of a moderately 
high-class business. She walked in and a young man 
came forward. 

"Can I see Mr. Grubhofer?" she said. 

"What name, miss?" said the young man. 

"I 'm his niece," said Olga. 



"KEVOLT" 117 

The young man went into an inner room, and pres- 
ently Unf'le Grubhofer appeared looking like a ruffled 
elephant. He came out and stared at her. 

"I want to speak to you," she said. It was the most 
aggressive remark she had ever made to him, and he 
looked at her curiously. Then he turned and told the 
young man to go out on some errand, and retired to his 
inner room, thus noneomraittingly ordering her to follow 
him. When they arrived there, he sat down and she 
said : 

"Where is Irene?" 

There was an attitude of revolt about the child that 
was new to her. 

Uncle Grubhofer took up a piece of metal-turning that 
was on his desk. He held it up to his eye and looked 
along it, as though to see if it were true. Then he put 
it down and rolled ponderously on his swivel chair. 
Tears of anger darted to the girl's eyes, and she rose at 
him as she had never done before. 

"What have you done with Irene and the baby? 
Where is Karl and Montague? I want some money; 
you must give me some money. I want to go to them." 

Uncle Grubhofer said "Oh!" in a deep sonorous voice, 
and then he added in a lighter but more melancholy key, 
"So you want some money, eh?" 

Olga saw that he meant if possible to evade her ques- 
tion, and she rushed and struck the desk in front of 
him in a blaze of fury. "Where is Irene? ... if you 
don't tell rae I shall go and tell people . . . and then 
I shall go away." 

It was a strange duel, the small child like an angry 
sparrow darting about the room, consumed with emo- 



118 OLGA BARDEL 

tions she had no power to express, conscious of an out- 
raged sense of justice which she could not focus; and 
the man, secure in his own bulk but slightly disturbed 
and surprised, revolving meditatively the means of ac- 
tion within the ambit of his dubious desires, using his 
conscious power of brooding silence to strike terror and 
to gain time, hoping that from the turgid depths of his 
own being some inspiration might spring to adapt this 
new development to his own ends. 

"You are not fair to me. . . . You frighten me . , . 
but you can't do this! You shan't! you shan't!" 

The storm reached a climax in a fit of sobbing, and 
Uncle Grubhofer thought it well to temporize. 

He spoke in sorrow. He said that Irene had been ill. 
She was away in the country. If Olga did not behave 
so extravagantly there was no reason why she should not 
go to see her sister. It was very nice to see sisters loving 
each other so much! "With regard to money, he had 
none. She had cost him a lot of money, thousands of 
pounds which he never expected to recover. If she 
wanted money she had better go to ]\Ir. Pensiver or to 
Mrs. Du Casson ; they had any amount. 

"The people paid money to come and hear me play," 
said Olga with sudden inspiration. "Who has that?" 

Uncle Grubhofer shrugged his shoulders. "You had 
better ask dear Mrs. Du Casson or Mr. Pensiver," and 
he laughed with a queer malignity. 

Olga thought for a moment, and then she said, "I shall 
ask them. And now you must tell me where Irene is." 

Uncle Grubhofer rose and walked to a small paraffin 
stove and held his hands over it. He stood there for 
some time with his back to her, and then he turned and 



"REVOLT" 119 

looked at his watch. At last he said very deliberately, 
"You may meet me at — Gower Street Station at five 
o'clock, and then I will take you to see Irene; but it is 
on a condition." 

"What is it?" said Olga breathlessly. 

"You shall not say anything to Mrs. Du Casson. You 
shall not say where you are going, or that you are to 
meet me." 

Olga was surprised at the simplicity of this condition, 
and she agreed. Uncle Grubhofer turned again to the 
paraffin, stove and she was struck by the inadequacy of 
this tiny fountain of warmth for the overpowering pro- 
portions of the man. There seemed nothing further to 
say, and she went out of the shop while his back was 
turned. 

She returned to Chessle Terrace, surging with varied 
emotions. There was a note for her from Mr. Du Casson 
to say that he and his wife would be out all day. They 
would be back to dinner at 7 :30. He then reminded her 
that she had to play at the Royal Tonic Society's concert 
on Saturday, and she had better start practising. But 
Olga did not practise that afternoon. She felt too per- 
turbed by her experience of the morning, and too excited 
by the prospect of adventure for the evening. She lay 
on her bed revolving many thoughts, and watching the 
clock. Would Irene be glad to see her ? She wondered 
what the baby would be like, and where Karl and ^lon- 
tague were. Would they be angry that she had not sent 
them the money? How lovely it would be if she could 
take them some now — lots of money and good things. 
Then she suddenly remembered that she had not even 
any money for her fare. Supposing Uncle Grubhofer 



120 OLGA BARDEL 

refused to buy her ticket, or still contended that he 
hadn't any. She remembered what he had said, "You 
had better ask dear Mrs. Du Casson. She has any 
amount. ' ' Of course Mrs. Du Casson had ; she kept lots 
in her escritoire in her boudoir. It suddenly occurred 
to her that she would see if it were open, and if so, she 
would take a little, just enough to pay her fare, and 
perhaps a few shillings for Irene. 

It was getting late and she would have to start soon. 
She washed herself and brushed her hair. She wanted 
to look nice. Then she put on her hat and coat and went 
quietly down to Mrs. Du Casson 's boudoir. She felt 
rather frightened, for she knew that this was tampering 
with property. And her moral teaching had instilled 
the fact into her that if you are discovered tampering 
with property you are very severely punished. But this 
was essentially a day of revolt. She crept into the room. 
It smelt strongly with the scent she always associated 
with the Du Cassons. It was a very pretty room, all 
pink and with shiny yellowish furniture. She went 
to the escritoire, and to her relief saw that there was a 
small bunch of keys on a ring, and one of them was in 
the lock. Mrs. Du Casson had evidently gone off and for- 
gotten them ! She opened the escritoire and found the 
cash box, but it was locked. She tried all the keys on 
the ring, but none of them fitted. She looked in all 
the drawers, and at last found a small key in a nib box. 
To her delight it was the right one. She opened the 
cash box. There was all the money, as she had seen it 
that morning. She grabbed four shillings and then her 
eye lighted on the pile of gold. 

In a flash the thought came to her of her demand of 



"REVOLT" 121 

Uncle Grubbofer: "Tbe people paid money to come and 
bear me play. Who was it?" and tben sbe remembered 
bis significant grin, "You bad better ask Mrs. Du Cas- 
son?" Good Heavens ! tbis was it ! Sbe bad a moment 
of poignant revelation. Sbe knew wby tbese people were 
so kind to ber. Tbey took tbe money wbicb rightfully 
belonged to ber. It must belong to ber. Sbe played 
alone at tbe concerts, there was no other attraction — 
people came in their hundreds and paid money to hear 
her. Sbe rolled the sovereigns over in her hand. She 
thought of Karl and Montague and Irene, and the baby 
perhaps without proper food. And sbe had sent them 
nothing, had nothing, and here was all the money that 
sbe rightfully should be allowed to give them lying in 
this box. She counted it out on tbe green baize top of 
tbe desk, ber ears alert for any disturbance from below. 
There were nine sovereigns and five half sovereigns. 
It was a fortune ! Sbe would go away and take Irene 
and tbe others to somewhere in tbe country, and never 
come back. She put the coins stealthily in a handker- 
chief and tucked them away in her small reticule. Then 
she closed tbe desk and went out of the room. 

When sbe met Uncle Grubbofer at Gower Street she 
was quite calm. 

He said, "You have not spoken?" and she shook her 
head. 

They took a train to Waterloo, where be bought two 
more tickets. It was dark by this time and they boarded 
a slow train and sat in tbe corner of a smoking- 
carriage witliout speaking. The train stopped at all the 
stations and people passed in and out like phantoms. 
They trundled through tbe country for about an hour 



122 OLGA BARDEU 

till the train arrived at a station at which porters were 
declaiming a title that sounded something like "Larr- 
sham!" Uncle Grubhofer peered out of the window, 
and then got out, Olga following him. The station 
seemed bleak and deserted, but outside were two cabs of 
a sort. Uncle Grubhofer motioned to her to get into 
one of them, and then he gave some directions to the 
driver. They rattled off into the dark country, and 
passed through a village. About a mile further on they 
pulled up, and Uncle Grubhofer told the driver to wait. 
They got out and clambered over a stile, and crossed a 
field. In a hollow on the other side a dimly lit cottage 
was discernible. Uncle Grubhofer led his charge to- 
wards it. He listened for a minute or two outside the 
gate, and then went through and tapped on the door. 
They heard some one moving inside, and then the bolt 
was slipped back and the door opened an inch or two, 
and Irene's voice said: "Who is it?" 

Uncle Grubhofer said, "It 's me. Let me in quickly," 
and he pushed his way into the passage. 

' ' Who is this ? ' ' said Irene, peering at Olga ; then sud- 
denly recognizing her she said, "Oh, Christ!" 

They trooped into the room where the lamp was burn- 
ing, and a few dull cinders lay shivering in a small 
grate. Uncle Grubhofer did not remove his hat. He 
went to the fireplace and placed one of his feet on the 
bars of the grate. Olga wanted to greet Irene in some { 
way, but the impulse of affection seemed atrophied in ! 
her. She felt tense and strained, and was conscious that ; 
the silence was oppressing her and Irene in different 
ways. Neitlier of the girls moved or looked at each 
other. They were staring at Uncle Grubhofer 's back. 



"REVOLT" 123 

At last the silence snapped in the chilling percussion 
of his voice. 

"Well, well," he said, "are you alone here? Quite 
alone — still 1 None of the tradespeople here, eh V not the 
butcher, or the milkman ? or even — the baker ? ' ' 

Olga noticed the top of his head moving as though 
he were shaking with the vibrations of some fountain 
of secret enjoyment. Irene did not answer. She 
shrunk against the wall, and he continued : 

"So! Your dear little sister has come to see you. 
She wants to stop with you — she loves you so ! You see 
— you have so much in common — thieving and harlo- 
try!" he chuckled to himself. "She wants to have a 
nice loving chat. She will like to hear all about Karl. 
You can't tell her much about IMoutague, can you? and 
then — who else is there? Who else? How sad that 
Nathan didn't have more children! robbing the prisons 
and brothels of their hard-earned fodder, eh ? You can 
put her up, can't you? I expect she has money. Look 
in that little black bag she carries. I expect she 's 
brought you something. You see she lives among rich 
people. She 's used to having everything. And when 
they don't give it to her she takes it. Oh, yes, don't 
worry. She 's a Bardel all right. She 's one of 
Nathan's children — the apple of his eye! I remember 
he devoted special care to this one. ..." At that he 
turned and looked sharply at Olga, and at her small 
black bag. Her hand trembled, and she knew that if 
he chose to snatch it from her, she would not have the 
power to resist. It was horrible, the way he rambled 
on about her father. She felt at one moment that .she 
would be glad to throw the bag to him, if only he would 



124 OLGA BARDEL 

leave them, but the desultory flow of anathema pursued 
the even tenor of its course. Much of it was incompre- 
hensible to Olga, and he referred to names and incidents 
that conveyed nothing to her; the terrifying conviction 
came home to her that he was glad that she and Irene 
and the others were vile. He knew it and wanted them 
to be and rejoiced in his power to gloat over them. She 
tried to reason this out but she could not. It was hor- 
rible. The next time he mentioned her father, she sud- 
denly cried out : 

''Don't! Don't! I won't stand it! You shan't say 
these things of my father ! ' ' 

And then he did a most surprising thing. He looked 
quickly at Olga and then suddenly started as though he 
had been struck with a whip. He gave a sort of 
whimper. She really thought for the moment that he 
was going to cry. He fumbled with the lapels of his 
coat, and the expression of jeering satisfaction gave way 
to one of dejection. He took off his soft hat and crum- 
pled it in his hand and then put it back on his head. 
He kicked the grate peevishly and then walked to the 
door. There he stopped as though about to continue his 
diatribe but changed his mind. He gazed at Olga with 
an expression of melancholy anguish and then gave a 
snigger that carried no conviction of mirth, and walked 
right out of the cottage. 

The gate snapped, and they heard the heavy thud of 
his footsteps on the field path. The sisters stood there 
in silence, each listening to the tramp, tramp, tramp, 
across the field, almost unconscious of each other. Min- 
utes passed and then they heard the crack of a whip, 
and the crunching of wheels on the road. They hardly 



''KEVOLT" 125 

breathed till they heard the wheels die away in the dis- 
tance, and then they turned and looked at each other 
simultaneously. It was a strange encounter; for the 
first time in their lives they seemed to be looking at each 
other as equals. Olga had become taller and had ac- 
quired elements of assurance. She carried herself well ; 
Irene looked at her for a moment, and then sat by the 
table and buried her face in her hands and cried. Olga 
went to her and kissed the top of her head and said, 
breathing rapidly, "Don't cry." 

But Irene enjoyed her cry — she was quite unstrung. 
It was some minutes before she could speak. Then she 
said: 

"Why did you come?" 

Olga was dreading this question, particularly as she 
knew she had no answer ready that Irene would under- 
stand. At last she said, "I wanted to come. I wanted 
to see — the baby." 

A drawn expression came over Irene's face, but she 
answered in a low voice, "You shouldn't have done 
that. The baby 's dead. He died two months ago." 

"Oh, dear, I 'm sorry. I 'm so sorry," Olga tried 
to say, but her words were lost in the renewed sobbing 
that shook Irene. At last she said : 

"Oh, it don't matter. It was lovely having him. I 
didn't know — what anything was till he came . . . and 
went." 

This seemed a most surprising statement to Olga. 
"It was lovely having him" — What did she mean? 
Would she rather have had him and lost him ? Be was 
a boy then. What he had brought to her had been 
dashed away! But no, not quite. What was it about 



126 OLGA BAEDEU 

Irene? Olga recognized that her sister had some 
quality— she could not define it. Something that came 
out to meet one, she had never had it before. She 
could not have cried like this. "I didn't know what 
anything was till he came — and went. ' ' It was the most 
tremendous statement Irene had ever made to her. It 
was the first time in her life a message had come direct 
from some other heart to hers, as though valuing its in- 
timacy. She did not speak, but she felt glad that she 
had come. At last Irene looked up and said, "What 
was that he said about you? Have you brought me 
something?" 

Olga nodded and opened her bag. She untied the 
handkerchief, and put the pile of gold on the table. 
Irene started and trembled. She ran to the window and 
pulled the curtains closer, and stood listening as though 
she expected to hear the footsteps of Uncle Grubhofer 
returning. Then she came breathlessly to the table, her 
eyes glistening. 

"My God!" she kept repeating. At last she said in 
a whisper, "Where did you get this? Did you 
pinch it?" 

"It's mine," answered Olga simply; "the people 
paid to hear me play." 

Irene stared at her su«piciously, and she stroked the 
coins and sniffed. 

' * Did they give it to yer ? ' ' she asked suddenly. 

"No," said Olga placidly, "I took it. It 's mine. 
They paid this to hear me play." 

"My God!" whispered Irene, and she went on tiptoe 
to the window again. She seemed afraid to return. 



"REVOLT" 127 

She stood there and said in a husky voice, "I thought 
so! I thought so! It's no good. AVe 're all alike! 
The old dovil 's right. Did you hriiig it for me?" 

"Yes," said Olga, ''but I would like Montague to 
have some and Karl." 

** 'Ave n't you 'eard then?" said Irene "without mov- 
ing. ''Karl 's in quod again — forging this time — got 
eighteen mouths. ]\Iontague 's gone off — America, I 
think, or Australia — some foreign parts. You brought 
it for me, eh?" 

Her eyes transfixed the coins greedily. She seemed 
drawn between two fears. At last she came to the table 
and counted them. 

"Eleven pounds ten!" she said meditatively as though 
trying to visualize the potentialities of such a sura. At 
last she said, "Where did you get this from?" 

"Mrs. Du Casson had it," said Olga. "I took it 
while she was out." 

Irene stared at her sister and trembled. She noticed 
her small square chin and the curious placid determina- 
tion written on her brow. She looked different from 
Karl when he had pinched things. She felt frightened 
of her, even as she had felt frightened on that day when 
Olga persisted in playing with Uncle Grubhofer's "prop- 
erty." 

"Did you know what this means?" she said quickly. 
"It means that if they cop you they will put you in quod 
like Karl!" 

"It's mine," said Olga doggedly; "the people paid 
to hear me play." 

"You 'd 'ave to prove it. Oh, my God!" 



128 OLGA BARDEL 

The sisters sat there arguing about the first princi- 
ples of economics and justice in a scratchy, elementary 
way, but they could make no progress. Olga could not 
persuade Irene that the money rightfully belonged to 
her. And Irene could not convince Olga that she had 
done a criminal act. 

Olga lay on the couch in the sitting-room that night. 
In the middle of the night Irene came down and she 
found that Olga was awake. 

*'It 's no good," she said; "you '11 have to go away. 
I 've been thinking about it. Uncle Grubhofer will 
come in the morning with policemen and all that, and I 
can't stand it. I 've been ill. I was in the 'orspital, 
you know — the baby died there. They said I was to go 
to a 'ome, or I 'd go off my nut. And then Uncle Grub- 
hofer sent me down 'ere. He had this cottage, it seemed. 
I believe he thinks I '11 go off my nut anyway. I be- 
lieve he wants me to. He comes sometimes like he did 
last night. Stops ten minutes and looks at me as though 
I was some animal. I 'm allowed to order five bobs' 
worth of food a week from the shop 'ere, and I can take 
things out of the garden. Any shock will send me off 
my nut, the doctor said, and if the policemen come in 
the morning — Oh, my God! ..." 

Olga sat up and rubbed her brow. "Yes, yes," she 
said, "I '11 go. I '11 go at once." 

Then Irene cried and kissed Olga. "You didn't 
ought to have done it — to have stolen the money — I 
somehow thought you 'd be the only one. ... I 'm 
glad you come though. ..." 

The sisters lay in each other's arms in a sort of in- 
timacy for the first time in their lives. 



"REVOLT" 129 

When a pale light began to filter through the blind, 
Olga rose and bathed her face. 

She accepted one of the half sovereigns to pay her ex- 
penses to London, and leaving the rest with Irene, she 
started out across the fields. 



CHAPTER VIII 



"the board meeting" 



IT would be idle to pretend that the syndicate had at 
any time been a united body. The Du Cassons and 
Mr. Pensiver distrusted and disliked each other, but 
in any case they understood each other. They were of 
the same class, and had the same standard of ethical 
values. But Uncle Grubhofer introduced an alien and 
in every way objectionable element into their councils. 
Of course they were bound to have him as he had con- 
trol of the child, but they were always ashamed of being 
seen with him, and they were also a little afraid of him. 
This fear became accentuated when Uncle Grubhofer 
began to show open discontent with the financial results 
of the scheme, and to demonstrate to ]\Ir. Pensiver that 
he distrusted the statements in his books. He had har- 
bored a grudge against Mr. Pensiver from their very 
first interview, because he knew that Mr. Pensiver had 
taken advantage of his lack of knowledge of business as 
conducted in the musical profession. But Uncle Grub- 
hofer was beginning to understand the ropes a little 
himself, and was resenting the large profits that might 
ultimately go into the pockets of his fellow directors. 
The tour had been a fair success, making net profit of 
over eight hundred pounds, and out of his share of it 

130 



''THE BOARD MEETING" 131 

Uncle Grubhofer tried to buy out Mr. Bauseh and the 
other members of his own syndicate, but these gentlemen 
— with the exception of Karl who was in prison, and one 
of the men who had invested thirty pounds — having 
heard of the fame and reputation of Olga Barjelski, 
stood out for a larger sum than Uncle Grubhofer was 
disposed to pay. 

On the night when Olga paid her visit to Irene, the 
Du Cassons had invited Mr. Pensiver to dinner wdth the 
idea of having a little business chat, the prime motive 
of this being a desire on the part of the Du Cassons to 
buy Uncle Grubhofer out. The Du Cassons had social 
as well as commercial aims, and they were tired of "ex- 
plaining" Uncle Grubhofer to their many friends, and 
they were particularly tired of the unsavory parasites 
who were always in his train, and were apt to be ob- 
jectionable and not always particularly sober. For 
the coming year Mr, Pensiver had booked a lot of good 
engagements for Olga and they were to be of a more 
paying nature. That fact of course would have to be 
suppressed, or in any case considerably modified when 
discussing terms. It would have to be suggested that 
musical business was at a deadlock, but that out of the 
kindness of their hearts the Du Cassons would look after 
Olga for the rest of the time and would give INIr. Grub- 
hofer — say a hundred pounds to relinquish any further 
claim on the syndicate. They arrived home at seven 
o'clock and hurried up to their rooms to dress for din- 
ner. As the maid was spreading out Mrs. Du Cas- 
son's frock, that lady remarked, 

"By the way, Laura, where is Miss Olga? has she 
been practising?" 



132 OLGA BARDEL 

**I haven't heard her, madame," replied the maid. 
"I don't think she has." 

" Oh ! " exclaimed Mrs. Du Casson petulantly. ' ' Just 
go and tell her to come and speak to me, Laura." 

Laura retired, but returned in a few minutes to say 
she wasn't in her room. They called all over the house 
but there was no answer. Mrs. Du Casson was angry. 
She called to her husband. 

' ' Louis, what 's happened to Olga ? She 's not in 
the house!" 

Mr. Du Casson came in in his shirt sleeves. 

"Eh?" he said, "not in? Oh, I expect she 's some- 
where about. Where is she, Laura?" 

"I don't know, sir. I haven't seen her since — lunch 
time." 

"Well, that 's a nice thing," exclaimed Mr. Du Cas- 
son, sitting on the bed. "I told her she was to prac- 
tise. She 's got to play the Grieg concerto on Satur- 
day. She ought to have practised all the afternoon. 
I don't believe she knows the slow movement at all. I 
wonder whether we 'd better — What is it? What 's 
the matter, Eva?" 

These latter queries were addressed to Mrs. Du Cas- 
son, who had suddenly started in the middle of her 
dressing and rushed to her escritoire. She made violent 
movements of opening and shutting drawers and then 
shrieked and burst into tears. 

"What is it? what 's up?" ejaculated her husband. 

"Do you know what it is?" screamed Mrs. Du Cas- 
son. * ' The little devil 's stolen my money and bolted ! ' ' 

"What!" gasped the world famous professor. 
'I tell you she 's bolted!" cried the lady hysterically. 



(<' 



"THE BOARD MEETING" 133 

"You fool ! you might have known what would happen, 
having slum children in the house ! She 's just stolen 
everything and gone. I knew something like that would 
happen ! After all I 've done for her ! I Ve been like 
a mother, I 've given her everything she wanted ! 
Everything! and then she turns on me like this!" 
Poor IMrs. Du Casson broke down, and her husband 
tried to soothe her. 

"But, I say, you know, Eva, we don't know. Per- 
haps there is some mistake. She wouldn't — why, it 
wouldn't be worth it, it 's ridiculous! How much had 
you?" 

"Eleven pounds in gold, and some silver," sobbed 
]Vrrs. Du Casson ; " of course she 's taken it. She asked 
me for money this morning. She watched me taking it 
out of here. I noticed her greedy, cunning look at the 
time, as though I hadn't given her enough! They 're 
all criminals, all the family — I 've heard about them — 
one of the brothers is in prison now for stealing. And 
I expect that horrible uncle is in it. He 's probably 
put her up to it. Oh, it 's awful!" 

IMr. Du Casson was incredulous. He poked about in 
the escritoire and asked a series of pointless questions. 
He went up-stairs to Olga's room and routed amongst 
her things. 

"She can't have bolted," he shouted down, "she's 
left some of her clothes and so on." 

In the midst of this confusion the bell rang and Mr. 
Pensiver was announced. Olga's patron and patroness 
hurriedly finished their dressing and went do\\Ti to him. 
Mr. Pensiver took the news magnificently, as became a 
person who gambled in big things. He listened atten- 



134 OLGA BAEDEL 

tively to all they had to say, and then started immedi- 
ately to consider the wisest course to pursue. Dinner 
was announced before he had time to formulate any 
plan and the three of them adjourned to the dining- 
room. Two maids waited at table, so that tht discus- 
sion was deferred till the dessert stage. In spite of their 
misgivings and Mrs. Du Casson's broken, maternal 
heart, they all managed to negotiate a very excellent 
dinner. When the maids had retired and a bottle of 
Benedictine had been passed round and the men had 
lighted their cigars, Mrs. Du Casson said, 

"Well now — what are we to do?" 

''Do you think there might have been a street acci- 
dent?" said Mr. Du Casson suddenly. "You know 
she 's rather an — er, abstracted child. Taxis coming 
round the corner and so on." He illustrated the line 
of his pessimistic foreboding by a sweep of a dessert 
knife, but neither of the others evinced a serious inter- 
est in this theory. 

Mrs. Du Casson said, "Do you think the man Grub- 
hofer is at the back of this, Sir. Pensiver?" 

Pensiver held his Benedictine up to the light and 
said, 

''We must be prepared for this, dear lady. But there 
is one point I want to make quite clear. Nothing must 
be said about this money that she has — that has disap- 
peared. You will understand — there are considerable 
sums at stake during the next few years — so we will 
write this amount off — how much did you say it was — 
ten pounds? We will consider it one of the aberrations 
of genius," and Mr. Pensiver laughed pleasantly. 
"Good heavens! I 've known nearly every artist in 



"THE BOARD MEETING" 135 

Europe personally and intimately. I don't think 
there 's one who hasn't got some wayward kink in his 
or her composition. ]\Iany of them are criminals. We 
make allowances for them." ]\Ir. Pensiver tossed the 
contents of the small glass of yellow liquid into his 
mouth as though the aggravating stuff had tantalized 
him long enough and then continued, "So if this young 
lady shows a certain — light-fingered proclivity, the only 
thing for us to do is to — er — keep temptation out of her 
way and protect her." He smiled expansively, and Mrs, 
Du Casson nodded and said, 

"Yes. You 're right, of course. You 're quite right, 
Mr. Pensiver, but you can't think how upset and dis- 
appointed I am. I had looked upon her almost as my 
own child. It seems so horrible! Stealing! There's 
something so — unclean about it." And the good lady 
selected a salted almond from a silver jardiniere and 
crunched it despondingly between her teeth. 

"Please accept my sincere sympathy," said Mr. Pen- 
siver earnestly. "It must be indeed terrible for you. 
Now what I think is this. I do not believe that Grub- 
hofer is at the back of this. I think the eleven pounds 
settles that. He would not have encouraged her to 
steal eleven pounds when he has so much more at stake. 
It would be ridiculous, and Grubhofer is no fool. I 'm 
inclined to think the child has gone off on some way- 
ward business of her own, to visit some of these choice 
members of her family perhaps. I hope this may be 
so. In that case Grubhofer is the only person who will 
be able to get in touch with her. In any case I think 
no time should be lost in getting in touch with him. 
We shall in any case know the worst. ' ' 



136 OLGA BARDEL 

"He 's not on the telephone," ventured Mr. Du Cas- 
son. 

"No, and I don't think that would be the best way to 
approach him either, ' ' said the impresario. 

"What shall we do?" said Mrs. Du Casson. 

"I think one of us ought to go in a ear over to his 
place in Canning Town. If there is no sign of the girl 
there, we should persuade him to come back there, to 
hold a meeting, as the matter is urgent. I should say- 
nothing to him about the stolen money." 

"Good!" said Mr. Du Casson. "That's right and 
you 're the one to go ! " 

"I bow to the decision of the majority," said Mr. 
Pensiver magnanimously as Mrs. Du Casson nodded an 
agreement with her husband. Within twenty minutes 
the impresario's cab was at the door, and the great man, 
with his half-smoked cigar rolling between his teeth, 
stepped across the pavement and gave the driver in- 
structions in an apologetic voice as to how to approach 
the mephitic neighborhood of Canning Town. It 
took the cab rather less than half an hour to arrive 
at Uncle Grubhofer's shop. Mr. Pensiver got out and 
walked quickly up to the door and rang a bell. Every- 
thing was in darkness, but presently Mr. Pensiver 
thought he heard a window open. He looked up. A 
shadowy head was peering at him. 

"Ah!" called Mr, Pensiver in a loud and genial 
voice. "Is that you, Mr. Grubhofer?" 

"Who is it?" said the face. 

"I 'm John Pensiver. May I speak to you for a mo- 
ment, Mr. Grubhofer?" 

The window shut deliberately and there was a long 



"THE BOARD MEETING" 137 

interval. At last a bolt creaked behiud the door, and 
Uncle Grubhofer appeared in a dressing gown, holding a 
lamp. ''Come in," he said. Mr. Pensiver followed him 
into the shop. 

"Your niece has disappeared from Mrs. Du Cas- 
son's," he said, and he looked Uncle Grubhofer very 
searchingly in the eye. 

Uncle Grubhofer started and blinked. "She has dis- 
appeared?" he repeated. 

"It is very urgent," continued Mr. Pensiver. "We 
presume you know nothing of her whereabouts?" 

Uncle Grubhofer seemed dumbfounded. "What do 
you mean?" he said. "She 's disappeared! When did 
she disappear? I took her there this morning!" 

"She went out this afternoon and has not returned. 
She is engaged to play at the Royal Tonic Society's 
concert on Saturday at a good fee. She should be prac- 
tising. It is a serious thing ! ' ' 

"Dear, dear!" said Uncle Grubhofer; "this is awful !" 

"As I see you know nothing about her whereabouts — 
we think it would be a good thing if you would come 
back with me to the Du Cassons ' so that we may discuss 
the best thing to do. I have my car here." 

"Oh, dear! I do hope there hasn't been an accident. 
Have you informed the police?" 

"No," said Mr. Pensiver, and then after a pause he 
added, "Not yet." 

The men stood staring at each other, each trying to 
read the other's thoughts. At last Uncle Grubhofer 
said, "Yes, I will come." 

He left i\lr. Pensiver to wait in the shop. While he 
was robing himself in more appropriate garments, IMr. 



138 OLGA BARDEL 

Pensiver devoted his time in listening keenly for any 
sound that might give him a clue that the little girl was 
on the premises. In this he was unsuccessful, and at 
last Uncle Grubhofer appeared and they entered the 
car together. This important board meeting of the 
syndicate took place nearly at midnight, in a small room 
on the ground floor passage which they called the smoke- 
room. They held it there because Mrs. Du Casson gave 
her decision that "she would not under any circum- 
stances ask that dirty old blackguard into her drawing- 
room. " 

The four partners were all nervous, and not sure of 
each other, and consequently the meeting promised to 
be entirely formal. Mr. Pensiver began by saying that, 
although it was a board meeting, they could do nothing. 
They could make no decisions. Mrs. Du Casson said 
that the thing they could decide was — whether to in- 
form the police, and if so, when. 

Mr. Du Casson said, "Surely, Pensiver, there 's a 
good ad. here! 'Disappearance of infant Prodigy!' 
What?" 

Mr, Pensiver said it might or might not be a good ad- 
vertisement. It all depended on how the girl was dis- 
covered and the reason for her disappearance. If they 
were certain of producing her for the concert on Satur- 
day and some romantic reason for her disappearance 
were forthcoming — that she had been kidnapped or had 
wandered into the country in search of flowers — of 
course it would be excellent. "But if, on the other 
hand," he said, "we are not able to produce her and the 
reason of her disappearance is a — shall we say — dis- 
creditable reason, it would act in a contrary fashion. 



"THE BOARD MEETING" 130 

Managers, you know, do not like an artist they cannot 
rely on." 

"I have a feeling she '11 turn up," said Mr. Du Cas- 
son. "You 're sure she 's not with any of her family, 
Mr. Grubhofer?" 

"I have seen her sister only this evening," said that 
gentleman. "And her brothers are — er — abroad," and 
he shook his head doubtfully. 

"I should suggest," said Mrs. Du Casson, who had 
her original project always in her mind's eye, "that we 
discuss future arrangements on the assumption that she 
will turn up, ' ' and she looked at Mr. Pensiver. 

The impresario caught her eye and produced some 
papers from his pocket and turned them over on the 
table. He cleared his throat and put down the stump 
of his cigar. 

"It would, of course," he said, "be idle to pretend 
that the little girl has been the — er — commercial success 
that we hoped. And the bookings for the coming sea- 
son are fairly numerous but unfortunately not very re- 
munerative, and after that, speaking as one who has 
had a very considerable experience in the profession, 
I 'm afraid the outlook is not encouraging and for this 
reason. We shall soon no longer be able to produce her 
as a prodigy or even as an infant phenomenon, and then 
of course the value of the attraction sinks to zero. Now 
our contract holds good for seven years and I am sure 
that none of us will be desirous of burking our obliga- 
tions. But there is, of course, no reason why any mem- 
ber of the syndicate should not — with the consent of the 
other members — sell his or her shares to an}- other mem- 
ber, I am naturally speaking hypothetically — " 



140 OLGA BARDEL 

"On the assumption that the child is found, of 
course," interrupted Mrs. Du Casson. 

"On the assumption that the child is found before 
Saturda}^" said Mr. Pensiver. 

"Oh!" exclaimed the lady. 

"I attribute great importance to her appearance at 
the Royal Tonic Society's concert. It will strengthen 
my hand in the provinces enormously." 

"But if not?" she said; "if the child is not found?" 

Mr. Pensiver shrugged his shoulders. "I think in 
any case we will have covered our expenses," and he 
bowed slightly to Mrs. Du Casson as though he had ren- 
dered some signal and gallant service in a chivalrous 
cause. 

"It 's a pretty dreadful outlook," said Mrs. Du Cas- 
son at last, scratching with a pen on a blotting pad. 
"I 'm afraid you will feel this very much, Mr. Grub- 
hofer." There was a pause, and then Uncle Grubhofer 
said, 

"I believe that the God who divided the waters for 
the children of Israel will deliver our little lamb back 
into the fold." 

This sentence murmured in a thin melancholy voice 
seemed to stab the air like some obscene blasphemy. 
The other three gasped and sat back, and small beads 
of perspiration gathered on the brow of Mr, Pensiver 
and he laughed unpleasantly. And then he said, 

"Come now — I will be a sportsman. Would any one 
like to sell me their share in the sj-ndicate? Mrs. Du 
Casson?" 

It is difficult to know how much of the little scene 
that followed had been rehearsed beforehand by the Du 



"TPIE BOARD MEETING" 141 

Cassons and Mr. Pensiver. But the upshot was that 
Mrs. Du Casson said that from a purely commercial 
point of view she would be willing to sell her interests 
in the concern for a hundred pounds, but as she had 
promised to look after the child she felt she could not 
back out of it. Besides she had developed a very sin- 
cere affection for her and she should stick to her as 
long as she could. Fortunately she and i\Ir. Du Casson 
were not entirely without means, so that the prospect of 
Olga not paying her way did not disturb her in the least. 
It seemed dreadful to be exploiting a little girl like that, 
and she was sure they all felt the same. 

Uncle Grubhofer was licking the wet end of a cigar 
and dabbing it with his finger, but he said nothing. He 
might have been nursing his inconsolable grief at the 
loss of the lamb from the fold. 

Mrs. Du Casson continued in level tones: *'0f course 
with Mr. Grubhofer I 'm afraid it 's different. He has 
already had all the — bother and responsibility of bring- 
ing up a child, who, after all, is not his own. We can 
hardly expect him to — persevere. Besides he has his 
business to attend to in such a — in a part of London 
which makes it difficult for him to get in touch with — 
musical matters. And he is launching out, I under- 
stand, in new premises. That must take up all his time 
and any capital he has to spare." She waited as though 
expecting an interruption, but it did not come, and she 
continued: "I think one of us who have a more work- 
ing interest in the child should take the responsibility 
out of his hands. If you agree, Mr. Grubhofer, I will 
pay you a hundred pounds for your share in the ar- 
rangement." 



142 OLGA BARDEL 

They all looked at Grubhofer. He still patted his 
disheveled cigar and then he said, 

"And what will you pay me, Mrs. Du Casson, for 
my broken heart ? or for my lonely life without my little 
niece to cheer me?" 

Mrs. Du Casson bit her lip. She was a little annoyed. 
She said, "Oh, well, of course, Mr. Grubhofer, you would 
always have access to the child. She would be able to 
come and see you on Sundays and so on. ' ' 

And then Uncle Grubhofer made a surprising state- 
ment. 

"It is strange you should have made this proposal," 
he murmured in a doleful voice, "because I proposed to 
make a similar offer to you, only for a different amount. 
I will give you five hundred pounds for your share in 
the syndicate, Mrs. Du Casson." 

The three of them started as though a bombshell had 
fallen in the room, and Mr. Pensiver said in a hard voice, 

"Does your offer still hold good?" 

"I make it in all faith to you, Mrs. Du Casson, and 
to you, Mr. Pensiver. If you will both forego your in- 
terests in the child, I will pay you five hundred pounds 
each to-night." The three looked at each other as 
though trying to read how much the others considered 
this bluff and how much genuine. And then Mr. Pen- 
siver laughed uneasily and said, 

' ' But of course we are all talking a little wildly. The 
child has disappeared. For all we know she may — we 
may never be able to complete." 

Uncle Grubhofer produced a grubby check book and 
a fountain pen, that he tried by languidly jerking it on 
the tablecloth. And then he said, 



"THE BOARD MEETING" 143 

**I am willing to take my chance. Will you both 
agree to accept five hundred pounds to forego your 
claims whether the child turns up or not?" 

"Ah!" a chilling gasp escaped Mrs. Du Casson and 
Mr. Pensiver. 

"You seem very confident," said the impresario de- 
liberately, "that the child will turn up." And then he 
shivered with a dread that Uncle Grubhofer would make 
some reference to the "lamb returning to the fold." 
But he did not. He seemed to be waiting indifferently 
for the decision of the others. 

It was Mrs. Du Casson who had the instinct to act. 
Her eyes looked strained and hard, as though she had be- 
come aware of some unpleasant fact, and meant to deal 
with it at all costs. She looked across the table and fixed 
her eyes very intently on ]\Ir. Grubhofer and said, "If the 
child turns up by twelve o'clock to-morrow, I will pay 
you seven hundred and fifty pounds for your interests in 
the concern." 

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" said Uncle Grubhofer. 
"Don't let us talk as though the dear child may not 
turn up." 

"Let us say then — if you promise that the child will 
turn up ! " 

' ' I say, Eva ! " It was Mr. Du Casson who exclaimed 
this. He began to feel that the atmosphere was unpleas- 
ant and he had a dread that his wife was going to make 
a fool of herself. But she turned on him angrily and 
gave him an expression that dried up all his instincts of 
interference for the rest of the evening. 

Mr. Pensiver rustled his papers about and pressed his 
hair back. 



144 OLGA BARDEL 

"I hope you have given your offer consideration, Mrs. 
Du Casson. It appears to me a surprisingly generous 
one, and of course if Mr. Grubhofer accepts it, it is a 
tacit admission that he knows where the child is and can 
produce her. It practically amounts — " 

He did not finish the sentence, for Mrs. Du Casson, 
who had never taken her eyes off Grubhofer, said in a 
high, detached voice: 

"I have a curious faith that if Mr. Grubhofer says 
that the child will turn up to-morrow, she will turn up. 
I am prepared to back my opinion to the extent of seven 
hundred and fifty pounds." 

Uncle Grubhofer never raised his eyes from the blot- 
ting paper in front of him. He had made a little pile 
of cigar ash and he kept pushing it with his fingers. 
His appearance was in every way disconsolate. At last 
he said : 

"This arrangement would break my heart. Think 
of it ! all my dear brother-in-law 's children are now 
scattered. There is no one to soothe their uncle's last 
years. This little girl, — " there was a catch in his 
voice — "she is the last. For seven years she might be 
my guardian angel, brightening my lonely home, attend- 
ing to my meager wants. How tragic is this genius! 
what a trail of sadness it always leaves. One cannot 
encompass it, or understand it. At the end of seven 
years what may she not be? She may have forgotten 
her uncle entirely, or he may be dead. It is terrible. 
I appreciate what you say, Mrs. Du Casson, and it is 
nice in this hard world to find such a woman as you, 
with your pure, maternal, disinterested heart" — just 
for a second he glanced up and his smile was one of the 



"THE BOARD MEETING" 145 

most horrible episodes of the evening, and then he con- 
tinued, ruminating in the pile of tobacco ash — "She 
will never forget you. You will always be the bright 
maternal figure to her, taking the place of — every one 
else. She will learn to love you more and more, and in 
after life she will repay your old age. Ah!" he sighed 
lugubriously, "I know it is probably my duty to accept, 
and yet — well, ]Mrs. Du Casson, only God can judge 
these things. For a thousand poiuids I will do what 
you say, only from Mr. Pensiver I shall also want a 
hundred pounds a year while the contract lasts!" 

"I '11 see you damned — " commenced Mr. Pensiver, 
but Mrs. Du Casson jumped up and exclaimed : 

"Wait a moment! Mr. Pensiver, Louis, come into 
the next room. I want to have a word with you before 
anything further is said." Mrs. Du Casson was a little 
hysterical and not to be denied. The three others 
trouped out and left Uncle Grubhofer to his pile of 
tobacco ash. They were out of the room less than five 
minutes. "^Hien they returned Mr. Pensiver said : 

"We 've thought this matter over, Grubhofer, and we 
accept the terms. On this condition, that during this 
time you make no claim at all upon us or the child. 
That you do not attempt to see her or us and that you 
sign a contract to that effect, and also that the child 
returns to-morrow morning by twelve o'clock. ]\rrs. Du 
Casson will give you a check for a thousand pounds now 
dated the day after to-morrow, so of course if the child 
does not appear, the check is stopped. Do you agree ? ' ' 

Uncle Grubhofer was too upset to answer. He 
merely nodded his head, as though agreeing to his own 
execution. The check and contract changed hands. 



146 OLGA BAKDEL 

And then the large man rose up and walked to the door. 
He seemed dazed. He was apparently too heartbroken 
to indulge in any valediction. He rolled heavily 
through the hall, with his eyes on the ground, and out 
into the street. 

When the door slammed, the other three looked at 
each other and Mrs. Du Casson gave a sigh of relief. 
No one spoke for a few moments and then Mr. Du Cas- 
son said, 

' ' I say, Eva, you know, it 's all very well, but that 
blackguard has blackmailed us!" 

"1 know! I know! but. Good God, it was worth it!" 
and she gave a little hysterical sob. 

"Of course he 's got the girl at home all the time!" 
said Mr. Du Casson, as though expecting some credit 
for his perspicacity and restraint. "He just came 
bouncing in and blackmailed you both." 

"It is the first time in my professional career that I 
have been blackmailed," said Mr. Pensiver, "but I think 
it was worth it. You were right, Mrs. Du Casson. 
After all I 've booked nearly a thousand pounds' worth 
of engagements for the coming season, and then I think 
we can start on America. A successful American tour 
will soon take the taste of this out of our mouths." 

' ' Oh, the relief of feeling that we 've done with that— 
nightmare forever!" 

"Do you know it's a quarter to three!" exclaimed 
Mr. Du Casson. Mr. Pensiver 's car was still waiting 
and he took his departure. 

The Du Cassons had had a disturbing evening and 
when it was over they could not sleep. They lay awake 
for hours discussing the situation, indulging in recrim- 



"THE BOARD MEETING" 147 

inations and doubts aud hopes. It must have been 
nearly daylight before they went to sleep. 

At half -past ten the next morning they were still 
sleeping, then ]\Ir. Du Casson half wakened. He was 
wondering why a certain air kept running through his 
head and it seemed more and more insistent. At last 
he sat up doubtfully and listened and rubbed his eyes. 
Then he awakened his wife. 

"Eva, Eva," he said. "Listen!" 

Mrs. Du Casson yawned and said peevishly, "What 
is it?" 

Then she looked at her husband and the truth flashed 
through both of them. 

The "lamb had returned to the fold" and was hard 
at work practising the slow movement of the Grieg con- 
certo! 



CHAPTER IX 

THE TWO METHODS 

OLGA'S mind worked with peculiar transcend- 
ence on her return journey from her visit to 
Irene. The railway carriage was very cold and 
she shivered in one of the corners, but her spirits were 
buoyant. She saw things at oblique and interesting 
angles, and felt for the first time a desire to put them 
in their place. She looked out of the window and saw 
the green country bathed in a gray dew. She left the 
window open and the air felt damp, but sweet and good. 
Impulses within her moved towards a greater sense of 
independence. Life had so far played the unholy jest 
upon her of giving her a great heart, and then depriv- 
ing her of any great object of affection. She was like 
a splendid, untuned instrument lying forgotten in a 
drawer. The only affection she had ever enjoyed had 
been for Miss Merson, and this she realized was because 
Miss Merson had been kind and good to her. There was 
nothing fundamental about it. She had a fundamental 
affection for Irene and Karl and Montague, but it had 
been cabined and confined by their indifference to her. 
The rest of the people were but shadows acting in in- 
comprehensible ways. The dominant thing that life 
had so far given her had been — moods. IMoods of ter- 
ror, of fear, of unexplaiuable passion, of longing; moods 

148 



THE TWO METHODS 149 

of pity too deep for expression; moods of sorrow that 
could not be assuaged, and yet that left her tranquil ; 
moods of little jealousies and uncontrollable dislikes. 
Life had also given her most wonderful hands, and an 
inborn sense of rhythm. There also came to her at 
moments a certainty that she had experienced all this 
before. 

Sometimes on the tour and in artists' rooms in Lon- 
don people had come to her and spoken kindly to her. 
She had looked into their steady eyes, and felt a desire 
to know them. But they came and touched her hand 
and vanished. People seemed to be always coming and 
going — like that — passing by her like a pageant. But 
often they left her something — just a word — a look, 
something that helped to quicken her sensibilities. 

Often she longed for IMr. Casewell again, and 
"Levitch himself," who gave her the apple. She felt 
somehow that she would get on with these people. Be- 
hind the dark half-humorous eyes of "Levitch himself" 
lurked unexplored worlds, where things would be better 
balanced, saner, more beautiful . . . There must be 
others like Levitch. 

The train rumbled through Clapham Junction, where 
some workmen got in on their way to work. She felt 
important and independent traveling into London with 
workmen. She never lost that feeling all her life, the 
feeling of mental stimulus when approaching London 
in a train and of mixing with people on their way to 
work. The rows of houses with their gray faces each 
expressed something different,, and then here and there 
some great church or factory rose with insolent asser- 
tion above the general level of domesticity. 



150 OLGA BARDEL 

' ' Do you mind having the window up, miss ? ' ' 

She was being appealed to by a man. He may have 
been a stonemason or a carpenter. It was very kind 
of him to ask her like that, an acknowledgment of her 
civic rights in this great and illimitable city. 

"Not at all," she said and yawned with a pleasant 
sense of ease. 

As the train was crossing the river, Irene's remark 
occurred to her about the police and taking the money. 
Perhaps when she arrived at the Du Cassons' she would 
be arrested and taken away to prison. She felt curi- 
ously indifferent about this. It would be interesting 
to go to prison, to see what it was like. Perhaps she 
would see Karl. And then one day they would let her 
out again ; they never kept people in prison forever, and 
then she would see the great river again and the fields 
in their morning dew. . . . 

It was in any case much better for Irene to have all 
that gold than Mrs. Du Casson. Irene was very, very 
poor, and Mrs. Du Casson was very rich. 

She arrived at the Du Cassons' very early, again be- 
fore they were up. She surprised the maid by order- 
ing some breakfast for herself. She was cold and hun- 
gry. They took a long time making the tea, but at last 
it came. She had an egg and lots of marmalade and 
bread and three cups of tea, and then sat in front of the 
fire. She felt well and buoyant and the desire to create 
came to her. She went up to her room and took off her 
hat, and in a few minutes was immersed in the intri- 
cacies of the slow movement of the Grieg concerto. She 
found it absorbing. She was convinced that Mr. Du 
Casson was wrong about the reading of certain pas- 



THE TWO METHODS 151 

sages. She worked on for nearly two hours, when sud- 
denly the door opened and ^Ir. Du Casson's head ap- 
peared. He was smiling as usual, his dark mustache 
lifted with an irritating regularity above his perfect 
teeth. 

"Well," he cried out breezily, **so we 're back again, 
are we? Well, well, how are we getting on?" 

He made no further reference to her disappearance 
or to the loss of the money. He talked only about the 
music. It was very difficult. She knew she could not 
play it as it should be played, and yet she felt even 
surer than ever that Mr. Du Casson's way was not the 
right way. She argued with him on certain points, 
and she hated the patronizing way he spoke to her. 
When the lunch gong went, she went down to the draw- 
ing-room. Mrs. Du Casson was there surrounded by 
her yapping dogs. She kissed her, but Olga was in- 
stantly aware of the slight chilling difference in man- 
ner. She believed Mrs. Du Casson said: "When you 
want to go and spend the night with friends, Olga, you 
must let us know. It 's very worrying not knowing 
where you are." 

She believed she said this, but the dogs made such a 
noise it was impossible to be certain. They went into 
the dining-room and got through a rather self-conscious 
meal, Mr. and ]\Irs. Du Casson seeming at a loss to know 
what to say to her, and so keeping up a loud, vapid 
conversation between themselves shouting above the din 
of the dogs. After lunch she went back to her room. 
She worked hard at the Grieg concerto but did not feel 
happy about it. She had a rehearsal with the orchestra 
on the Friday and was introduced to the great Emil 



152 OLGA BARDEIj 

Maunlyas, the world-famous conductor. He was a 
large, distinguished -looking man with a pointed beard, 
and a keen reflective face. He shook hands with her 
amiably. They played the first movement. It was not 
a success. The great man kept stopping the orchestra 
and looking at her askance. She asked him a question 
once, and he shrugged his shoulders and said: "It is 
for you to lead, Miss — er — " 

She knew he was displeased with her, and she did not 
know what to do. She could not play the concerto any 
better, the time was all wrong in places, and there was 
no one to help her. She felt like crying and then she 
thought, "I must do the best I can," and she went 
through with it. She felt ashamed of meeting M. Maun- 
lyas afterwards and she avoided him. 

On the Saturday for the first time she felt very 
nervous. It required great will power to force herself 
to go on the platform. When she did, she was received 
with the usual applause. She started well, but soon got 
into difficulties. Her runs came off splendidly, but she 
was conscious that it was all wrong somehow, wrong 
and meaningless. At the end of the first movement 
the people applauded vociferously, and she stood up and 
bowed, but as she turned again to the piano, her eye 
caught the grave meditative look of M, Maunlyas. She 
bit her lips and started on the second movement. x\t 
the end of the concerto the applause was tremendous. 
She bowed again and again to the house and the orches- 
tra. M. Maunlyas was clapping too, but she could tell 
by the way he did it that it was done out of courtesy. 
She went off the platform, but was recalled four times. 
And then M. Maunlvas lead her on himself and bowed 



THE TWO METHODS 153 

stiffly to her, and the people applauded this act even 
more. 

At last she got back to the artists' room. She was 
very unstrung and struggled to keep back the tears. 
There were several people there, and M. Maunlyas was 
talking to a man by the door. Mr. Du Casson was 
dancing about like a wild cat, and i\Ir. Pensiver was 
looking smugly satisfied. M. Maunlyas moved towards 
the door. He would have to go on in three minutes' 
time and conduct another piece. Olga jumped up and 
touched him on the arm. He looked round. 

"Oh! I'm so sorry," she said, and her face was 
racked with anguish. "I 'm so sorry I played so badly! 
I couldn't — I wanted it to be different — I — " her voice 
stopped, choked with tears. 

The great man looked at her surprised. He patted 
her hands kindly and said, "My dear young lady!" 
He bowed stiffly. Some one was calling him, and he 
went out and she did not see him again. 

There was a great deal of noise and confusion. In 
the distance she heard the droning of the 'cellos and 
fiddles tuning up. She shut her eyes and tried to 
steadj^ herself. Suddenly a voice said, "Do you remem- 
ber me, Olga?" 

She looked up quickly and found herself looking into 
the keen, intelligent face of Mr. Casewell. She gave a 
little gasp and put out both her hands and he took them 
and pressed them. 

"You seem to be becoming a great lady," he said. 
"I felt I must come round and see you. How are you, 
Olga?" 

She glanced quickly round the room. It seemed 



154 OLGA BARDEL 

providential, this sudden advent of Mr. Casewell. Mr. 
Du Casson had danced off somewhere else, and Mr. Pen- 
siver had no doubt returned to the box-office. Mrs. Du 
Casson was in front. There was no one in the room 
who knew her. She clutched his forearm. 

* ' Take me away, will you ? Take me out of this ! ' ' 

"Why, of course," said Mr. Casewell kindly but a 
little surprised. "Put on your cloak and we '11 go and 
have some chocolate at Coutis'." 

She did as he said. She pulled on her cloak rapidly, 
and changed her shoes and then darted out of the room. 
He followed her through a dimly lighted basement and 
up some stone steps into the street and noted her fear- 
ful eagerness to get away. When they were in the 
street she did not speak but hurried along at .his side. 
When they were quite clear of all that appertained to 
the concert hall, she said, "Mr. Casewell, is there any- 
where we could go? Do you know, I don't want to go 
to a public restaurant. I want to talk to you. May I ? " 

"Quite," said Mr. Casewell. "Will you come to my 
rooms? You don't think your guardians will mind?" 

"Oh, I don't care," she said suddenly. 

He laughed and called a cab. In less than five 
minutes they were sitting in front of a fire in Mr. Case- 
well's bachelor chambers, and he was making her some 
cocoa. 

"Now!" he said as he poured some direct from a 
saucepan into her cup, "tell me." 

Olga took a sip of the hot drink and looked into the 
fire, and then she said, "Tell me, Mr. Casewell, how 
did you think I played?" 

"Brilliantly," he answered, "brilliantly!" 



THE TWO METHODS 155 

"No," she said firmly, "tell me what you really, 
really think." 

He laughed, and after a pause said, "Well, of course, 
I — it may sound like professional jealousy or interfer- 
ence." 

"No, no," she said eagerly, "go on! That 's just it, 
that 's what I want." 

"Well, my dear, I thought, of course, your technique 
was remarkable, but honestly 1 didn't think you 
grasped the shape of the music a bit. I don't think you 
understood it." 

"Ah!" exclaimed Olga, and she took vicious little 
sips at the boiling cocoa. 

"Of course I take it that this is Du Casson's reading. 
Anything I say may — " 

She interrupted him by stretching out her hand and 
holding his. 

"Oh, Mr. Casewell," she said, "I 'm so unhappy!" 

Richard Casewell suddenly felt himself on dangerous 
ground. He had always liked and admired this strange 
little girl, and had great hopes of her and wanted to be 
her friend. But the sudden appearance of this rival 
faction of guardianship over her made it very difficult. 
It was obvious that any approaches that he made to re- 
gain her either as a pupil or a friend would be subject 
to serious misunderstanding. He had a hardly won 
reputation as a serious professor, and it was a reputa- 
tion he was a little jealous of. He also had responsi- 
bilities, a mother and a sister who were dependent on 
him. He had been round to see Olga to-night because 
it seemed a reasonable and kindly thing to do. but he 
had had no intentions of acting in any way that sug- 



156 OLGA BAEDEL 

gested that he was trying to regain her. He saw now 
that the situation was going to be complicated by some 
confession, and he could not make up his mind how to 
act. He looked at her face and noticed that it had 
developed since the day when she first came to him. 
The chin seemed squarer and she held herself with a 
certain looseness and independence. Her eyes were 
deeper and more reflective, as though they had already 
suffered the pangs of introspective sorrow, as apart from 
the sorrows of beatings and bad food that she suffered 
in the earlier days. She brooded tensely as she leaned 
forward on the tuffet that he had drawn up for her in 
front of the fire. 

"Good God!" he thought to himself, "what a woman 
this will be." He wanted to gain time and so he said, 
' ' Unhappy ! Oh, come ! You who have been the suc- 
cess of two seasons! You who have sat at rich men's 
feasts!" 

"Don't!" she said and tears started to her eyes. 
"You know, Mr. Casewell, that all this is nothing! or 
at least not everything." 

Mr. Casewell stared at her and wondered. 

She continued. "I don't know how it is. I some- 
times think I would rather go back to Canning Town. 
There is no one — nothing here. Do you know what I 
mean? I feel sometimes at the Du Cassons' as though 
I shall go mad. I hate everything about them. They 
seem to choke me. Of course they 're kind — in a way. 
It 's just that, as though I was choking all the time. 
And I want to play — differently somehow — and he, Mr. 
Du Casson keeps on pushing me round and round in a 
circle. Do you know what I mean, Mr. Casewell?" 



THE TWO METHODS 157 

Mr, Casewell knew too well what she meant, and the 
knowledge did not make his position easier. He put 
her cup down for her and lighted his pipe. 

"I would like to do anything I could," he said after 
a time; "of course, you will see, Olga, it is a little diffi- 
cult for me, won't you? I cannot take you away from 
Du Casson. You are no longer a waif of the streets. 
You are a person of note. You make money. You are 
independent. Of course, I don 't see why you should n 't 
come and see me sometimes — as a friend. It would 
make me very happy if you would do so, and if you let 
me help you in any way I can." 

"Will you help me with my work?" 

Mr. Casewell looked at her meditatively. 

"That of course is rather the difficulty. While you 
are with Du Casson I can hardly — " 

"I won't let him know," said Olga quickly, with a 
sudden change of countenance. 

Mr. Casewell looked solemnly into the fire, and read- 
justed his glasses. 

"Say yes, yes." Her round, eager young face was 
very close to his, and her deep eyes were pleading. 
Some instinct made him stoop down and kiss her cheek. 

"All right, you little schemer," he said, "we '11 do 
it. And now I must take you back ! ' ' 

"So soon?" she said, and as she lay curled on the 
tuffet it struck him that there was something feline and 
sinuous about the lines of her. She smiled and was 
very much a child again, "Tell me, have you any 
news? Have you seen Miss Merson?" she asked. 

"No," he answered, smiling in turn, "I believe she 
has gone to Birmingham — ^to a school there. I see Miss 



158 OLGA BARDEL 

Kenway sometimes. We often talk about you and read 
about you. What a trying time you must have had 
among the Armenians!" He added this last sentence 
suddenly with a sly smile. 

Olga blushed and said, "Isn't it dreadful! It makes 
me so wretched— that sort of thing. And 'Levitch him- 
self? Where is he?" 

"He's in Prague," said Mr. Casewell. "He lives 
there, you know. He only comes over for three months 
every year. He will be here in May. Come! I shall 
get into dreadful trouble if you do not come back now. 
Come and see me on Wednesday afternoon at four 
o'clock, if you are free." 

They walked back to the concert hall and Mr. Case- 
well said good-by to her outside. When she got back to 
the artists' room Mrs. Du Casson was there. 

"Hullo, child," she exclaimed. "Where have you 
been? We 've been looking for you." 

"I had to go out and get some air. It was so close. 
I felt I couldn't breathe." 

"But not by yourself, my dear child, surely?" 
"Why not?" said Olga, and thus saved herself the 
ignominy of telling the lie she was prepared to tell. 
The concert was nearly over, and the orchestra was play- 
ing the last item on the program. Mrs. Du Casson 
said they had better wait so as to have a talk with Mon- 
sieur Maunlyas and anybody else of importance who 
came round. 

The idea of this seemed repulsive to Olga, so while 
Mrs. Du Casson 's back was turned she slipped out of 
the artists' room and went out into the street. She 
found the Du Cassons' car and got into it and waited 



THE TWO METHODS 159 

for them. They did not come for about twenty minutes 
and when they did there was a real row for the first 
time between the Du Cassons and their charge. Olga 
would give no other explanation of her disappearance 
than that she was tired and did n't want to see any one. 
Mrs, Du Casson got really angry and said that while 
she was in their charge she was to do as she was told. 
It was disgraceful conduct on her part to go off like 
that, and very bad business. She, ]\Irs. Du Casson, had 
given up all her time and energy to making her a suc- 
cess and it was extremely ungrateful. One of the first 
things she had to learn was to be gracious to every one, 
and when it came to the conductors she must simply do 
anything to try and please them and get in their favor. 
They — the Du Cassons — had spent an enormous sum 
of money making her a popular success and they hoped 
to make her an even greater success, but if she was 
going to behave like that, well, Mrs. Du Casson didn't 
know what she should do, she should have to reconsider 
everything. 

"I played badly," said Olga. 

"Badly!" exclaimed Mr. Du Casson. "Why, you 
were a great success ! Everybody was delighted ! ' ' 

"They don't know," persisted Olg^. "I played dis- 
gracefully. ' ' 

"What on earth is the child talking about?" A hor- 
rible thought struck Mrs. Du Casson. Was that ap- 
palling uncle of hers, Grubhofer, at the back of this? 
Was he trying some secret game to make her discon- 
tented? to get her away from them? She leaned for- 
ward in the car and looking at Olga very searchiugly she 
said, "Have you seen your Uncle Grubhofer to-night?" 



160 OLGA BARDEL 

The mention of that name seemed to send the vibrat- 
ing passions of the three of them off into more chilling 
channels. Olga said, "No," and she shivered slightly. 
She had been forgetting about Uncle Grubhofer during 
the last few days, and the thought of him brought back 
a thousand dreads. She did not fear the Du Cassons. 
She disliked them and despised them, the experiences 
of the evening had bred in her a virulence toward them. 
Certain things were rankling, and one was that the 
great Maunlyas despised her, despised her because of 
these people and their mode of thought, and the way 
they trained her. She could not picture Maunlyas in 
Mrs. Du Casson's drawing-room, talking vapid things 
among the little dogs. He was one of them, like Mr. 
Casewell and "Levitch himself." He knew. He was 
one of the great people, people who did n 't fuss and say 
things they did n 't mean. She was excited at meeting 
Mr. Casewell. It opened glorious prospects to her. 
She didn't care about the Du Cassons. They could do 
what they liked, turn her out in the street. She would 
go to Mr. Casewell in spite of them. But somehow she 
felt afraid of Uncle Grubhofer. The very mention of 
his name cast portentous shadows across the fair pros- 
pect. And the mention of his name dulled the spirits 
of the loquacious Du Cassons. They arrived home, and 
Olga, refusing any refreshment, went straight to bed. 
The Du Cassons sat up some time and discussed the 
situation and were peevish with each other. 

"I don't like it," said Mr. Du Casson. *'I believe 
the old devil has put her up to it. She 's been like it 
ever since she came back — argues with me about read- 
ings, if you please ! Seems to think she knows. She 's 



THE TWO METHODS 161 

sullen and obstinate, and to-night she was rude to you 
in the car, Eva, By God ! she flew out like a little cat ! 
Makes one feel one would like to chuck her!" 

"Yes," said Mrs. Du Casson bitingly, "and chuck 
away the thousand pounds we gave for her last week ! 
That would be verj' clever." 

"I never wanted to go in on it," said Mr. Du Casson. 

"No," said his wife savagely, "I know you didn't. 
In the first place you haven't got a thousand pounds 
and in the second place you haven't any enterprise. 
I tell you there 's a thousand a year clear to be made 
out of this arranp:ement while it lasts. What sort of 
turnover on one's money is that, do you think? Oh, 
no, I 'm going to stick to it. And I 'm going to have 
her watched. We have our contract. If I find that old 
swine has been seeing her and getting at her, I '11 have 
him sued." 

Nevertheless Mrs. Du Casson did not put her threat 
into immediate execution. On the next morning ^Mr. 
Pensiver rang up. The Royal Tonic Society concert 
had been a great success. The press was eulogistic and 
booking and enquiries were coming in from all over the 
country. Moreover, a New York agent was in town, 
staying at the Savoy, and had written to Mr. Pensiver 
for an appointment to discuss business in connection 
with "Barjelski." Mrs. Du Casson decided to see how 
things went and in the meantime to keep a sharp look- 
out on 01 ga herself. All her movements were checked 
and when she went out for a walk, she was always ac- 
companied by a maid in addition to the little dogs. 
Olga was instantly aware of this change of attitude, and 
she determined to deal with the matter in her own way. 



162 OLGA BARDEL 

On the following Wednesday she started out with the 
maid and the little dogs, and when they got to the 
corner of Great Portland Street she suddenly said, 

"I have to go down to Conduit Street to order some 
music, Emma, so I shall have to leave you. I shall be 
back about five," and without giving the maid any op- 
portunity of repeating any instructions she may have 
received she jumped into a 'bus and disappeared. 

She found Mr. Casewell awaiting her and a tea had 
been prepared. They grinned at each other and he said, 
"Well?" 

"Isn't it a ripping day!" said Olga. "Now tell me 
how I ought to have played the slow movement." 

She was in a great hurry and devoured everything he 
told her. It was only with the greatest difficulty he 
could get her to take any interest in the tea that he had 
taken such elaborate pains to prepare. He enjoyed 
talking to her and teaching her. She grasped ideas in 
a flash. Her mental virility excited him. They be- 
came conscious of nothing but the lofty claims of the 
muse they worshiped. Suddenly Mr. Casewell glanced 
at the clock. It was half-past five. 

"You must go, my dear," he said in a low voice. 

When Olga realized the time, she started. 

"It 's been awfully good of you," she said and there 
were tears in her eyes. 

"It 's been a delightful pleasure to me," said Mr. 
Casewell. "Come again next Wednesday, or when you 
can — Only let me know — I '11 always arrange it." 

When she returned to Chessle Terrace, Mrs. Du Cas- 
son was walking up and down the hall. She looked at 
Olga suspiciously. 



THE TWO METHODS 163 

*'0h!" she said. "It seems to take some time to 
walk down to Conduit Street." 

"Yes," answered Olga nonchalantly; "I went for a 
stroll afterwards down Regent Street and Piccadilly. 
It 's a perfect day, is n 't it ? " 

"Lying as well as stealing!" thought Mrs. Du Cas- 
son. "What can you expect from a slum child? I 
hope to goodness the American tour comes off. After 
that she can go to the devil!" Out loud she said — 
"Well, you had better change your shoes, dear. Mr. 
Du Casson is expecting you up-stairs. The appointment 
for your lesson was five, you know ! ' ' 

As a matter of fact Olga had forgotten this, and she 
got out of it on this occasion by pleading a sudden and 
unaccountable headache. Mrs. Du Casson said it was 
undoubtedly due to strolling about looking in shop win- 
dows. In future she had better take her walks in the 
park. 

During the next three months Olga, by all sorts of 
cunning tricks, managed to visit Mr. Casewell on an 
average once a week, not knowing that during a part of 
that time her visits were observed and noted by a 
private detective. The more often she visited Mr. Case- 
well, the more agonizing did her lessons become with 
Mr. Du Casson. She became more and more argumen- 
tative with him, and then reverted to a sort of sullen in- 
difference in which she ignored what he said. 

When the Du Cassons discovered what was happen- 
ing — that she was visiting I\Ir. Casewell on the quiet 
and having lessons from him — they were at a loss to 
know what to do. The point that disturbed them 
was — Wlio was paying Mr. Casewell 's fees? Im- 



164 OLGA BARDEL 

mediately they saw the hand of Uncle Grubhofer, The 
dark villain of the piece had some diabolical plot on in 
conjunction with the hirelmg of the Levitch school to 
get control of the child or claim the credit of her train- 
ing. How the Levitch crowd would love to call her one 
of the "Levitch pupils!" There was nothing Mr. Du 
Casson so despised and condemned as the "Levitch 
method," partly because he had been instructed in a 
different and more old-fashioned method, and princi- 
pally because he found that people were asking for and 
insisting on the "Levitch method," and all the most 
promising pupils and young artists were disciples of 
the Levitch school. 

Mr. Du Casson was intensely angry. "The girl 's a 
little devil !" he shouted to his wife one morning in the 
bathroom, "I 've taught her everything, everything ! 
and now she turns on me, sneaks over to the Levitch 
crowd behind my back. Insults me when I talk to her. 
She can go to blazes! I 'm not going to do any more 
for her." 

"Don't be a fool," said Mrs. Du Casson. "What 
does it matter what they teach her? You 've had the 
credit of her bringing out. They can't call her a 
'Levitch pupil' after she 's been playing for a year as 
a 'pupil of Du Casson.' I don't see that this matters. 
The thing is to keep a hold over her till after the Ameri- 
can tour. Thank heaven it comes off in the autumn ! 
Pensiver 's booked her from September 29th. We 
mustn't have a row now, whatever happens, especially 
after having to just fork out five hundred pounds guar- 
antee to Johanson in New York." 

And so the Du Cassons winked at Olga's secret visits 



THE TWO METHODS 165 

to Mr. Casewell, and ^Ir. Du Casson attempted no moro 
with her than formal lessons, just listening to her play, 
and at times nursing an ironic resentment that in spite 
of his passivity she was improving wonderfully ! 

Olga led a very busy and disturbing life. Two or 
three days a week on an average she had to travel to 
various towns in the country to play at concerts or to 
give recitals. On these occasions she was always ac- 
companied by either Mr, or Mrs. Du Casson or a maid. 
In the meantime she had to practise. The meetings 
with ]\Ir. Casewell made a tremendous difference to her 
and spurred her with new hopes and ambitions. She 
was surprised that during this time nothing was seen 
or heard of Uncle Grubbofer, and consequently she 
could not get to hear anything of Irene. She even got 
]\Ir. Casewell to go on a wild goose chase to the village 
of *'Larn-shan" one Sunday, but he returned to say 
that the cottage she described was shut up, and he heard 
from a local general shop that the "young lady had left 
there some months ago." This was very disturbing, 
and she determined to make another visit to her uncle 
at the first opportunity. It was some time before she 
found such an opportunity and when she did, to her 
surprise, she discovered that Uncle Grubbofer 's new 
shop was occupied by a ham and beef merchant, who 
could give her no information of the former tenant's 
whereabouts. She wont back to the old street, but on 
this occasion was nearly assaulted by the same woman 
who had opened the door before. 



CHAPTER X 

THE LANTERN 

IN the spring Levitch came to London, and on a 
certain afternoon Mr. Casewell took Olga to play 
to him. It was an entrancing experience. The 
little man had not forgotten her, and he was astounded 
at the progress she had made; nevertheless he was dis- 
turbed by some of her tricks, and the stiffness she had 
acquired under the Du Casson tuition. Mr. Casewell 
explained the situation as well as he could. Levitch 
nodded his bald head in rapid little jerks, and ejacu- 
lated, ' * Ah ! yes . . . yes . . . ah ! " He looked at 
Olga meditatively and then he suddenly stroked her hair 
and said: 

"Ah! Come now, what is it they do to you?" He 
took her forearm. She had just played a passage from 
a Beethoven minuet with remarkable brilliance, and an 
even more remarkable flourish. "Now! Gif me bote 
your arms. . . . Now, vat is it you call eet ? R-re-lax ! 
No! See, you are pulling me! Re-re-lax! Now! I 
vant you to fall trough de zeat, so!" He took hold 
of one of her knees. "No, here you see, you vas all 
tight ! Fall, fall, be nozing, so ! Ah ! now, dat is better 
— tranquil, isn't it? Forget all dees," — he waved 
his short arms at the keys — "they vas nozing. 
Tink ! I am Olga ! Olga ! Olga ! What eet ees I vant 

166 



THE LASjTERN 167 

to do? Tink dat. Begin all again. Forget all dees 
tings. Tink. Now it is the music. Tink! It ees ver' 
beautiful, ees n't eet? dees passages. Eet ees Beethoven, 
echt Beethoven ! Tink ! I vill play de beautiful pas- 
sages just tranquil, just as I know. Neffer mind dese!" 
And he swept his arm round the room as though in- 
dicating an audience. "Now, Olga, play me again!" 

Olga played the passage again. She found it diffi- 
cult to understand his language, she had never heard 
any one else speak like that, but the meaning was clear, 
and a curious sense of repose stole over her. With little 
gestures and exclamations Levitch helped her to see 
the sense of a phrase, and to keep the balance of the 
whole. It was very absorbing. She had never met 
any one before like Levitch, with just that strange, 
magnetic power. IMr. Casewell, she believed in; she 
was conscious of his sanity and equipoise and a certain 
intellectual fervor, but with Levitch it was somehow 
different. She was at once transplanted to a higher 
sphere, and for the first time tasted the alluring sweets 
of hero-worship. The little man became to her a god, 
a person who held all the secrets that she would ever 
want to know. She thought of him day and night and 
hung on every word he said. He was, too, so surprising, 
so full of strange directions, a mixture of mysticism 
and sound, material common sense, and his dark eyes 
had that faculty of mellowing his stern discussion with 
a most engaging smile. Before she went he asked her 
questions about her digestion, even examined the quality 
of her dress material. At one moment he solemnly 
patted her forearm, and said, "Nice fat arm! that ees 
goot!" She could tell by the way ho nodded his head 



168 OLGA BARDEt 

and said this that, although it was said a little facetiously, 
he was really pleased that she had a nice fat arm, and 
he considered it a valuable asset to her career. 

To her joy Levitch agreed with Mr. Casewell that he 
would hear her once a fortnight while he was in town. 
That was a glorious summer to Olga. She still had to 
travel about and play where she was told, but she felt 
more confident of herself and the advent of Levitch had 
opened up a new world to her. She was still haunted 
by the idea that Uncle Grubhofer would appear at 
some terrible moment and snatch this new-born joy 
from her, and she was worried about Irene. Once she 
asked Mrs. Du Casson if she could find out anything 
about her sister, but that lady replied that she hadn't 
the faintest idea where any of the family were, and she 
did not seem disposed to exert herself in the matter. 
Olga was young, and had that enviable quality of being 
able constantly to renew herself. Her affection for 
Irene did not absorb her life, it only impressed her in 
little waves, and then in the form of a wondering pity. 
She pictured Irene in all sorts of trouble and distress, 
and also Karl and Montague. But these visions usually 
came to her when she was tired or when things had gone 
wrong. Half an hour later she would be walking in the 
sunshine, inhaling new impressions, conscious of the 
vibrant life in her. There was a little girl, a pupil of 
Mr. Casewell 's, who also visited Levitch, and whom she 
often met, and made a friend of. She was a slight little 
thing, surprisingly fair, with very clear skin and gray- 
blue eyes. Her name was Emma Fittleworth. She 
seemed to take a great fancy to Olga, and could not 
take her eyes from her when they were in the room 



THE LANTERN 169 

together. She always came to the lessons in a large 
motor car, attended by a maid or by her mother. 

Mrs. Fittleworth was a plump, middle-aged American 
woman who had married a young Englishman. The 
marriage had not been a success, she had divorced her 
husband, who had since died. She had two little girls — 
of whom Emma was the elder — and she lavished on these 
children an adoring affection, tempered by a sort of 
mild surprise that they were so unlike herself. They 
were both very slight and fair, and almost ethereal, 
whilst ]\Irs. Fittleworth was a broad, solid woman with 
a kind but capable face, upon which the traces of un- 
happiness had set their seal. She had brown, pensive 
eyes, and she spoke in a deep, purring voice that was 
only relieved from monotony by a pleasant burr, and an 
occasional upward inflection that gave it a peculiar at- 
traction. It was her voice that first attracted Olga, 
and then afterwards she found everything about her 
attractive. She felt ''comfortable" in her presence, 
and she noticed that ^Irs. Fittleworth had the faculty 
of imparting this sense of comfort and security to others. 
She was very rich and they lived in a house in one of 
the large squares, but it was not this that made one feel 
comfortable. It was just some inner power that Mrs. 
Fittleworth possessed. Olga could not conceive her be- 
ing any different. She was a woman who would know 
exactly how to act under any circumstances, and she 
would not be disturbed or exasperated. She invited 
Olga to lunch, and on the strength of her new sense of 
independence she accepted. The Du Cassons had ceased 
to check her movements, and were only satisfied that she 
did not fail to keep her engagements. 



1*70 OLGA BARDEL. 

It was a very pleasant lunch party, just the four of 
them, Mrs. Fittleworth, Olga, Emma, and the younger 
sister, Mollie, who was only eight. After lunch they 
went into a sort of schoolroom and talked, and Olga 
found herself telling Mrs. Fittleworth all sorts of things 
about herself, things that she had never broached to 
any one. She told her about her family and Uncle 
Grubhofer and the Du Cassons and her experiences as 
an infant prodigy. She told it quite simply, and Mrs. 
Fittleworth listened attentively without surprise or hor- 
ror, but with the magic light of understanding. 

She found in the society of Emma and Mollie an ele- 
ment she had not encountered before — fun. They 
played and exchanged confidences, and Mollie, in spite 
of her delicate appearance and her innumerable toys, 
was a regular tomboy, and a joy to be with. The 
friendship soon ripened between these girls, and they 
hated the days when they were apart. They also shared 
in common the mutual worship of "Levitch himself." 
As the summer wore on, and the aspect of approaching 
separation became a reality to them, it hung like the 
doom of all things above their heads. 

Olga's American tour was to start in September, and 
at about the same time the Fittleworths were going to 
Prague, so that Emma could continue her studies with 
Levitch, and both the girls study German. They would 
remain there till the following summer; that is to say, 
from their point of view, forever. 

There came a day in July when "Levitch himself" 
went back to Prague. At her ]ast lesson he said : "You 
must gom vif me to Prague, yes?" and he pinched her 
cheek. 



THE LANTERN 171 

lu broken accents, Olga explained to him about her 
American tour. The little man shrugged his shoulders 
and said, ' ' Ah, zis is bat ! tch ! tch ! no, no, eet ees 
bat! . . . one day — yes! but now — ah, no, no!" He 
seemed very distressed about the matter and said he 
must speak to Mr. Casewell, This gave her great hope. 
It seemed impossible that any opinion that Levitch ex- 
pressed should not be obeyed. But when she next saw 
Mr. Casewell, he dashed her hopes to the ground. 

"My dear child, I 'm afraid it 's inevitable. I know 
as a fact that tliey have billed and booked you all over 
the States." And he showed her a New York musical 
journal with a front page photo of her in the Armenian 
dress, and three columns inside which purported to be 
an interview! During the interview she apparently 
had again given a description, even more breathless, of 
her wonderful escape from Turkey in the basket of 
* ' vegetable produce. ' ' There was also a column of press 
cuttings and a photograph of Professor Du Casson ! 

The Fittleworths left London at the end of July, for 
Mrs. Fittleworth wanted to take the children for a 
month to a manor house that she had taken on the Sus- 
sex Downs. She invited Olga to come and stay with 
them, but this of course was practically impossible. 
The Du Cassons did not even know of Mrs. Fittleworth, 
or that Olga had any friends outside their circle. Olga 
explained this to Mrs. Fittleworth, and that good lady 
gave the matter consideration, and then boldly drove 
up to Chessle Terrace in her carriage, and called on Mrs. 
Du Casson. It was an imposing equipage, and Mrs. 
Fittleworth was not a woman to be put off or ignored. 
^Irs. Du Casson happened to see it from her window, 



172 OLGA BARDEL 

and she liked to make the acquaintance of people with 
carriages like that. 

Mrs. Fittleworth apologized for calling, and she said 
she was afraid Mrs. Du Casson would think the reason 
of her visit a little strange. She understood that Mrs. 
Du Casson was the guardian of that remarkable little 
pianist, Miss Olga Barjelski. Well, she had two little 
girls who were musical, and they were tremendous ad- 
mirers of Olga's. They always went to hear her play 
when possible, and on several occasions they had been 
round to the artists' room, and spoken to her. They 
had taken such a fancy to her that Mrs. Fittleworth 
ventured to ask if she might possibly go so far as to 
ask permission for her to come and stay with them at 
Rollminster Manor, near Kailhurst on the downs — for a 
little while ? It would be so extremely kind of I\Irs. Du 
Casson ! 

Mrs. Du Casson was surprised and unprepared. She 
had admired the car, and her eye wandered over Mrs. 
Fittleworth 's costume. It was amazingly well cut. 
Everything about her was unobtrusive, but undeniably 
the best and the most expensive. This was not a woman 
to be snubbed. Mrs. Du Casson prevaricated. She said 
it was very kind of Mrs. Fittleworth ; of course she could 
do nothing without consulting the professor. lie was 
out. Olga would have to practise hard for the Ameri- 
can tour. As a matter of fact they — she and Mr. Du 
Cason — had thought of going to Bournemouth, and of 
course they would take Olga, but she would see and 
write Mrs. Fittleworth later. She thanked her and 
shook hands. Two days later, however, she wrote to 
say that "the Professor thought it would not be ad- 



THE LANTERN 173 

visable to interrupt Olga's studies, and the child would 
go to Bournemouth with them and propare for her great 
undertaking." 

"When the Fittleworths had taken their departure, and 
Olga realized that she was not to see them again, a great 
depression came over her. It was a very hot August 
and she was suffering from a nervous reaction from the 
excitement of the previous months. Moreover, Bourne- 
mouth did not agree with her. She felt phlegmatic and 
disinclined to work. They stayed at a fashionable hotel 
among some pine trees, and she was given a small room 
with a piano in it where she was to work *'in any case 
in the afternoon and till dinner time." It was a 
wretched hotel, full of rich disagreeable-looking people. 
She felt suddenly imprisoned. Everj'thing of value 
seemed to have gone in that hotel. She saw the hideous 
perspective of her future epitomized in its cabined walls 
and customs. The arbitrary arrangement of its set 
meals, the tyranny of its servants, its conventional 
flower beds and promenades, the hopeless dullness of its 
guests casting furtive glances at each other, and droning 
in self-conscious reiteration safe sayings for each other's 
ears. She sat opposite the smug Du Cassons still sur- 
rounded by the horrid little dogs. This was their ele- 
ment. This was where they wanted her to stop — in this 
world, to be a success in it, the wonderful child pianist! 
There would follow an endless amount of this, more 
hotels, trains, concerts, and the inevitable reclame, pos- 
ters, advertisements, puffs, more success, more hotels, 
newspaper interviews, steamships, agents, managers, and 
then again hotels, hotels, hotels ! 

She lost her appetite and went for walks by herself. 



174 OLGA BARDEL 

But she could not get away from the town. She walked 
for miles till she was footsore, but nothing relieved the 
pines but the interminable new houses, the pensions, 
the asphalt promenades. Everything about Olga was 
premature. At the age of fifteen she had encompassed 
many of the experiences of a woman twice her age. Her 
mind was quite untrained except musically, but she had 
keen intuitions and an unnerring sense that was almost 
psychic. She lay awake in bed one night and heard 
the drone of the electric lift. It filled her with a strange 
repugnance. JMoreover, the sound kept converging into 
a musical phrase repeated over and over again. It sud- 
denly seemed to cleave the forces that acted on her life 
into two bold groups. On the one hand stood the Du 
Cassons and Mr. Pensiver and the people they repre- 
sented who wanted just that, the drone of that phrase 
repeated and repeated and repeated. On the other 
hand, somewhere out there beyond the pines, the wind 
was blowing across the downs making unfinished sym- 
phonies, breaking free like the laughter of those chil- 
dren ; somewhere out there beyond the seas Levitch was 
striving "to think all over again." He too was like a 
child. He had that attitude of amazed delight at the 
never-ending discovery of new joys. She wanted to be 
like that. It seemed a thing more worth fighting for 
than anything in the world. She was annoyed that she 
could not define it to herself more clearly. She could 
only feel it. It was something that they represented — 
these others — freedom perhaps and a sense that some 
things counted more than success. 

For the rest of that week she was so moody and 
apathetic that the Du Cassons were a little alarmed. 



THE LANTERN 175 

They took her for motor rides, and eventually consulted 
a doctor. The doctor said she was "a little run down" 
and prescribed her a tonic, and she was given the tip 
that she had better not practise for a few days. On 
the Saturday week following Mr. Pensiver came do\vii 
for the week-end. He seemed in good spirits. After 
dinner that evening at an hour when she should have 
been in bed she snuggled in a corner of the veranda 
where none of the hotel people would be likely to see 
her. After a time the Du Cassons and Mr. Pensiver 
came out and sat at a table in the dark and talked and 
smoked. They had dined well, and were a little garru- 
lous. She overheard some interesting information. It 
appears that the tour was to last five months through 
the States and Canada, that the bookings already totalled 
over eight thousand pounds, that business had been so 
brisk that they had to advance Johanson of New York 
another five hundred pounds on advertising "and it was 
worth it." That Mrs. Du Casson had had six of the 
Armenian frocks made, as traveling over there ''was so 
disastrous to one's clothes." That they were all com- 
ing to New York, and would visit some of the principal 
cities, but that a "very reliable person named Miss 
l\IcHarness would act as cicerone and maid to the child 
for the tour." That they were all returning to London 
on Tuesday, and would sail for New York on the follow- 
ing Saturday. 

All of which information did not tend to raise her 
spirits. She felt a steel ring closing round her. In 
spite of the doctor's tonic she became paler and she slept 
badly. The Du Cassons noted this, but they said, "The 
voyage will put her right." 



176 OLGA BARDEIj 

On the return to town they were all very busy shop- 
ping and packing. Special iron-bound trunks arrived 
on which appeared in white letters "Olga Barjelski," 
and gaudy labels bedecked the sides. In the midst of 
the commotion Miss McHarness appeared. She was a 
Scotch- American woman with a hard, monotonous, pene- 
trating voice. She had come through from Paris, and 
immediately took charge of all Olga's property and per- 
son. She was undoubtedly a very capable and energetic 
cicerone, honest and keen, probably kind and sensible, 
but, thought Olga, "I shall have to listen to that voice 
all day every day for five months." 

It was a remarkable voice; it had the faculty of 
crashing above the din of the little dogs; one could 
imagine it in a noisy station or on a windy steamer 
making insistent demands. It would not be denied. 
It seemed a special by-product of the telephone age. By 
the Wednesday evening Olga felt that it would be the 
most terrifying adjunct of the terrifying tour. She felt 
that she could no longer stand it. Her nerves were on 
edge before it arrived, and it seemed to bring all her 
half -formed resolutions to a head. "I won't go," she 
said to herself as she retired to her room that night. 
She had not the vaguest idea of how she was to accom- 
plish her perverse decision. She presumed that if she 
refused they would fetch policemen, and she would be 
dragged off to the steamer. She moved feverishly in 
her bed all night, hugging rebellious impulses. In the 
morning she seemed steadier. Her face had a set, re- 
signed expression. She assisted in the packing, and 
much to Mrs. Du Casson's surprise she offered to go 



THE LANTERN 177 

aud get some small purchases for her early in the after- 
noon. 

Mrs. Du Casson was quite disarmed, and thanked her 
for offering. She wrote down one or two precise in- 
structions, and gave her a sovereign. Olga put on her 
hat and taking a small black reticule she walked out of 
the house. Mrs. Du Casson would not perhaps have 
been quite so delighted with her protegee's change of 
front if she had kuo\\Ti that she never intended to re- 
turn! She took a 'bus to Victoria Station and went 
into the bookiug-oflfice. 

"I want a ticket to Kailhurst on the Sussex Downs," 
she said. 

The booking clerk looked at her. "There 's no such 
station," he said; then noting the expression of chagrin 
on her face, some sympathetic chord in him was stirred, 
and he added, "Wait a minute." He examined a map. 

"You had better book to Cloton," he said; "it 's nine 
miles from there." 

She thanked him and bought the ticket. She had to 
wait forty minutes for a train and it was six o'clock 
when she arrived at Cloton. She was tired and hungry 
when she got there, but it was with a strange feeling of 
exhilaration that she gave up her ticket aud passed 
through the barrier into a free world. Cloton was a 
sleepy old market town, and the people of whom she 
asked the way to Kailhurst seemed to think it was an 
incredible distance, like an expedition to some remote 
and unexplored land. 

"You might get old George Plar-r-way to drive 'e," 
one suggested rather skeptically. But "George Har-r- 



178 OLGA BARDEL 

way" shook his head and said he might manage it to- 
morrow, but he would want "fourteen shillun." As 
Olga had only eleven shillings and some coppers she 
started to do what she had secretly hoped she would 
have to do all the time — walk there. She got the direc- 
tion verified by several of the inhabitants and started 
out. 

When she was quite free of the town she felt tremen- 
dously excited. The rhythmic action of walking and the 
sea-laden air soothed her spirits. The white road looked 
like a ribbon binding the sinuous lines of the downs. 
She walked past isolated houses and then out to the 
open country, past chalk pits and groups of friendly 
trees which nodded to her as though approving of her 
action. Here and there smoke from some dreamy ham- 
let revealed its hiding place in the gray seclusion of the 
hills. Sheep bells tinkled pleasantly in her ears, and 
birds sang overhead. She walked on and on. It was 
certainly going to be a long way, and she rather wished 
she were not so tired, but it was very beautiful, very 
beautiful and soothing. A flock of rooks rising from a 
clover field struck a plaintive note. They made her 
sigh a little and think, and she did not want to think too 
much. She knew she was doing something terrible and 
punishable, but the impulses which drove her along 
seemed apart from right or wrong, something tremen- 
dous that she could not comprehend. She felt very tired. 
She wished she had thought to have some tea some- 
where — perhaps she would get some in the next village. 
She wondered what time it got dark. She must get 
there before dark, or she might not find her way and 
she would be frightened. She walked faster. 



THE LANTERN 179 

At the next village a woman iu a shop told her she had 
come out of her way. She ought to have *' taken the 
road by Bayes farm and kept along the valley way over 
at Paseby-Coudhurst." She bought some buns, and 
retraced her steps. The sun set as she passed the bend 
in the downs that led from Paseby-Coudhurst towards 
Milcester. They told her that Kailhurst was "five 
mile from there, six may-be or six a ha-a-af mile," some 
said. Her legs ached and her shoes were not con- 
structed for country walks. They were intended for 
promenading the deck of an ocean liner. She began to 
walk more slowly, and to pause and rest against stiles. 
A wind got up and blew thin white clouds that melted 
into gray distances. She felt warm with walking, and 
yet sometimes she shivered slightly when she stopped. 
Things began to lose their form somewhat and there 
seemed little left but the white road in a dim setting, 
and the hurrying sky above. Past Milcester the road 
led up and up. She went by a disused chalk pit that 
looked very solemn in the dull light. The road became 
little more than a track after that and she seemed right 
up in the clouds. Their moist density obscured the 
sheep, but she knew they were all around her by their 
bells which tinkled in a variety of keys. A little way 
off the track she saw a figure dimly silhouetted against 
the sky. She made a sudden resolution, and walked 
over to it. He was a shepherd in a smock exactly as she 
had seen in a story book at IMiss jNIerson's. 

"\Yill you kindly tell me if I am on the right road 
for Kailhurst, sir," she asked. 

He looked up at her with a detached, far-away ex- 
pression. He seemed an incredibly old man; his face 



180 OLGA BARDEL 

was cracked and lined, as though battered by life-long 
struggle with the wind and sun, and his small eyes were 
glistening but unresponsive. He spoke in a high reedy 
voice like a call coming to her through the centuries. 
He was like a man to whom anything that could happen 
had happened long ago and passed beyond, but he still 
haunted the husk of his bod}^ and shouted into the wind, 
because Nature wanted him there, in that obscure corner 
of the downs, for the reason that she could not find a 
substitute. 

She repeated her request, and he peered obliquely 
down the road, leaning on his staff. After a long silence 
he said in his thin voice, ''Ay . . . th' be beyond . . . 
do 'e know ole Dave Tar-r-by, leddy, way over t' down 
yan Nan Car-r-sway's far-rm?" 

She could not understand what he said, but she real- 
ized that he was asking her a question, and so she shook 
her head and tried to smile. 

The old shepherd leaned forward on his stick and 
gave a long call that sounded like, "Coom . . . by . . ." 
There was a movement among the sheep, as though this 
conveyed some definite message. After a pause he said, 
*'Ay, oil t' ole sheep know me, young leddy. I karls 'un 
and they com' to 'e. I moind t' time when me an' ole 
Dave Tar-r-by, way over a' Cou'rst, drive 'un tew score 
yews o' Squire Garfey roight along o' lees where be 
now Mel'ster. Ay . . ." He sighed as though medi- 
tating on the ravages of time that had in the course of 
threescore years converted a pleasant meadow into a 
thriving village. Then he continued : 

"I moind the toime when 'is b'ys growed. Tom Tar- 
r-by 'e were away at t' great war . . . 'e was for 



THE LANTERN 181 

foightin' against t' Roosians. Ay, 'e were killed out 
there, 'e were shot . . . that were nigh sixty year. . . . 
Old Dave still dra'es breath. The Lard preserves 'un 
agenst 's good toime. . . . Ay." He looked at Olga 
with his clear abstract eye, and added, "T' Lard giveth 
and t' Lard taketh aw^ay." 

It was impressive the sense of unlimited time and 
space that the old man seemed to convey as he sat there 
among salt-bitten slabs of rock, and the bleating sheep, 
and it occurred to her that he was the first person she 
had ever met who talked of God. 

"Have you tended sheep here for sixty years?" she 
asked at last. A considerable time elapsed while this 
question apparently sank in, and then the voice called 
out across the mists of time. 

"I h'arded fowerscore long o' John Ma-a-son when 'e 
'eld t' ole far-r-m by Nan Car-r-sways. Ay, but 'e 
did n' bide there — 'e were af t' be'yond St'enham." He 
waved his hand contemptuously as though any one who 
went beyond the ridge of the downs showed a lack of 
moral stability. It was getting dark, and Olga repeated 
her request for the direction to Kailhurst. 

**Ay," he answered, nodding his head, "I be tcllin' 
'e. Ef a tek t' track yonder, by yon ellums, a meks t' 
road under t' lea of Scuddy's cuttin'. Tha' meks be- 
yon' there the len b' ole Dave Tar-r-by's cottage. 'T' 
nowt mowr beyon' nor an hour's steppin' to Laffy's 
mill-stream. Ole Jane Hale ef she be by '11 p'int ye 
t' way by Chane." 

"I see," said Olga faintly. "Thank you very much. 
It 's a manor house I want called Rollmiuster. A Mrs. 
Fittle worth lives there." 



182 OLGA BARDEL 

But the old shepherd who apparently looked upon this 
last statement as a sort of frivolous digression, unworthy 
of the attention of one who gives his life to permanent 
things, merely nodded and said "Ay." 

Olga had been able to make out very little of what he 
had said, but she got a sense of direction from his ges- 
tures, and she gathered that somewhere at any rate was 
"an hour's steppin' " to somewhere else and even that 
was not Kailhurst! Her heart sank within her as 
she stumbled along the track. A fine rain began to 
drive in cold gusts, and penetrated her stockings. She 
set her teeth, and kept her eyes on the lookout for 
lighted buildings. She would not let herself be afraid 
of the darkness, but she wished she were not so tired, 
and that the strange shivering did not keep assailing 
her. It was nearly an hour before she reached a village, 
and then she was told that it was two miles farther on 
to Kailhurst. She forced back the desire to cry and 
once more set out into the darkness. It was very dark 
now, and she was wet through to the skin. Between 
an avenue of trees she could see nothing. She groped 
her way, trying to keep to the middle of the road by 
looking up at the tree tops, but even then she slipped 
and stumbled, and once fell into something soft and 
slushy. "When she got through this avenue, and the 
road became a little lighter, she was trembling all over. 
"I mustn't faint," she kept saying to herself, and 
made a desperate effort to hurry. But at times the road 
seemed to be behaving in a peculiar way, twisting about, 
and going sideways, and rocking. She went on and on 
till she became hardly conscious of her legs. "I will 
get there! I will get there!" she repeated on an oc- 



THE LANTERN 183 

casion when the road seemed to be rising up, and strik- 
ing her knees. At last she reached a dimly lighted cot- 
tage near the road. She entered the garden to it, and 
heard a dog bark; the noise went through her like a 
knife, but she reached the door and knocked. A woman 
opened it and peered out. 

"Can you tell me where RoUminster Manor is?" she 
gasped and the light from the room blinded her to 
dizziness. She heard the woman talking to some one 
inside. She could not hear what they said. She was 
too busy keeping herself from falling. At last a man 
came out with a lantern. 

' ' Do you want to go up to the Manor to-night, miss ? ' ' 
he asked. 

She said, "Yes! Yes!" And there was more talk- 
ing. Then the man came out and said, **I '11 show ye the 
way." She could not thank him, and she crawled be- 
hind the lantern, and fixed her eyes on it. She did not 
know how long this walk lasted. She believed the man 
talked to her, but she could not hear him. She was so 
much engaged watching the lantern, and going on, and 
on, and on, to where it led. Things seemed light and 
irresponsible, nothing mattered but that, that the lan- 
tern should be followed. She remembered clutching 
herself once or twice, and bumping into the man, and 
once she thought she heard her voice sobbing curiously. 
Then the lantern stopped. It was awful. She felt at 
the crisis of her trials. Then a black object seemed to 
give way and there was a square block of light — people 
were talking. She could not look up, the light was too 
strong and blinding, but down in the square of light 
there was a frock — there was some one standing in a 



184 OLGA BARDEL 

frock not far from her — a voice she seemed to know sent 
a vibrant passion through her frame, and something 
snapped within her, as she fell forward and threw her 
arms round Mrs. Fittleworth 's knees. 



\ 



BOOK II 



CHAPTER I 



"ideas" 



M 



AYBE I don't look at women in quite that 
way. I was coeducated. Were you coedu- 



cated?" 



"I wasn't educated at all." 

The man and the girl laughed as they strode side by 
side up the hill. It was a glorious day, and between 
the silver stems of the larch trees they could see far 
away beneath the blue waters of the IMoldau. 

Among the numerous students who came to Prague — 
English, American, German, French, and Russian — Olga 
found none more companionable than this curious, 
heavy-framed American boy-man. 

His name was Irwin CuUum and he was looked upon 
as a crank. Emma objected to him because she said that 
his skin and hair and eyes were all the same color. They 
were indeed of a negative hue, but they expressed 
warmth, and his face seemed in some way an index of 
self-reliant power. 

He had a mildly Napoleonic countenance and enor- 
mous hands. His fingers were so large that it surprised 
people that he could manage to strike only one note on 
the piano at a time. There was a certain heavy sanity 
about him, from the serviceable, badly cut clothes to the 
gold-stopping in his teeth. He spoke slowly and with a 

187 



188 OLGA BARDEL 

drawl, and belied the general urbanity of his appearance 
by making surprising statements, and expressing — what 
seemed to Olga — unique ideas. 

During the three years that she had lived with the 
Fittleworths at Prague she had tasted for the first time 
the joys of the "things of the mind." She became 
slowly conscious of her own mind and its power. She 
knew she had been very ill for a long time, and then 
Mrs. Fittleworth had brought her over here to Prague. 
She believed there had been a lot of trouble and a law- 
case, but Mrs. Fittleworth would not speak of these 
things. 

As the memory of the terror of those days of insist- 
ent material demand began to recede, she seemed to sud- 
denly awaken in a new world. She gradually began to 
coordinate certain ideas and impulses; morality, of 
which no one had ever spoken except in terms of what is 
punishable and what is not punishable; beauty, which 
puzzled her by its elusiveness; and sex, which puzzled 
her most of all. And though she formed within herself 
certain conceptions of what her mental attitude would 
be towards these things, she did not hope to understand 
them. She was always searching the bounds of her con- 
science for rigid precepts but always there were doubts. 

"I am conscious," she had said to Mr. Cullum one 
day, "of being more susceptible to the influence of peo- 
ple than of principles. I sometimes come up against 
something in which I feel I no longer have the power 
to know how to act, and then I just think of some per- 
son — like Mrs, Fittleworth — and try and act as I 
imagine that she would under the circumstances." 

"Mrs. Fittleworth 's all right," Mr. Cullum had an- 



"IDEAS" 189 

swered ; ' ' but it won 't do. AVliat you 've got to do is to 
get a conception of yourself — not a rigid conception but 
a fluid one working on definite lines — and live up to 
that. You 've got a big push in front of you. Don't 
always be justifying yourself. Play the Liszt rhapsody 
like you did this afternoon. My ! I wish I had your 
temperament." 

And then one day a most inspiring thing had hap- 
pened. She had been to a students' dance in the town 
with Emma. During a mad dance she had suddenly 
felt a glowing interest in a young Hungarian officer. 
He was a tall, delicate young man with exquisite man- 
ners and dreamy eyes. She had followed the impulse 
set by the dance, and treated him with a certain railing 
abandon. Emma told her afterwards that she had 
flirted with the young man, but she did not gage the 
significance of this at the time. She only knew that 
finding herself alone with him upon the terrace after- 
wards, he had suddenly seized her hands and made vio- 
lent love to her. It was very entrancing but bewilder- 
ing. It seemed suddenly to shatter the spectrum of that 
moral vision that she had been so laboriously construct- 
ing and split into a hundred vari-colored lights. And 
it was of this experience that she was telling her "com- 
fortable" American friend as they strode together up 
the hill. 

"What surprises me," she said, "as I look back upon 
this experience — for you must remember it was last 
spring, and of course I was very young then — is that I 
felt a curious pride about the wliole thing. I was tre- 
mendously flattered. T believe I tried to make myself 
fall in love with him, but something seemed always miss- 



190 OLGA BARDEL 

ing when it came to the point. I know that on that night 
when he called for the last time, and threatened to throw 
himself into the Moldau if I refused him, I felt that 
there was something ridiculous about it. And yet, after 
he had gone I looked out of my window; the moon was 
shining on the river, and I felt a strange and unholy 
joy in it. I peered down at the water and tried to visu- 
alize a white, upturned face. Of course, as you know, he 
M'ent away. I believe he went back to Vienna and re- 
joined his regiment. It is three months ago, and he has 
probably forgotten me by now." 

She sighed, and the American boy grinned expan- 
sively. 

"It 's fine," he said, "that you can take your first 
encounter in such a 'decorative' manner. It hasn't 
got through to you — that 's clear. You just see your- 
self playing a part, while poor Paul Kolnyay's heart is 
probably broken. You 're beginning to be a person with 
ideas. Do you know what I mean by ideas ? ' ' 

"I 've heard the expression." 

"It 's very important. You must think about the 
real meaning of 'ideas.' You '11 gradually get to under- 
stand, as you grow up, that everything is illusion except 
ideas. It is inconsequential whether people fail or suc- 
ceed as people, but it is essential that ideas prevail. 
I 've found this a very comforting thought myself. Do 
you know what has been my greatest enemy?" 

"Tell me," said the girl. 

"]\ry own sentimentality." The boy hunched his 
large frame together, and struck at a stone on the path 
with his stick. Then he thrust his head forward and 
said: 



"IDEAS" 191 

"My people raised me on sentimentality. You 
wouldn't believe it. I recall that when I was a kid of 
six I used to sob in bed at night with thinking of my 
love of my mother. There was no call for it. My 
mother was quite well and happy, but I used to think 
of her face and cry." 

"I know what you mean," said Olga quickly. "I 've 
done the same sort of thing." 

He looked at her and nodded, and then continued : 

"It 's a very destroying thing, this sentimentality. 
If it could be eradicated from the race there would be 
no unhappiness at all. My sisters were terrible. They 
used to harbor little things — mementoes and anecdotes 
and so on. They used to keep certain days sacred in 
memory of certain events. I was younger than they, 
and I think I was worst of all. It was not till I started 
thinking about this question of 'ideas' that I was able to 
combat it at all. Sentimentality is essentially a ques- 
tion of looking back, and there is — so much to push 
on to." 

He flung out his arras in a wide gesture, and they 
sat side by side on a fallen trunk of a tree. Three spar- 
rows flew over their heads and darted behind a gorse 
bush, where they quarreled insistently. It was a 
splendid view across the river, with the hills beyond, 
and the sun was flooding the valley with a glow of amber 
light. 

"The other night," said Olga, "I was thinking of 
Levitch in somewhat the same way you mention. You 
know I am very fond of him. I think of him heaps. 
In the morning I was in his dining-room. Over the 
mantelpiece is a painting of his wife. You know they 



192 OLGA BAEDEL 

were married for a year, and then she died. She looks 
very wistful and sweet, and she has on a blue pelisse — 
a dear old-fashioned thing. The portrait is set around 
with candles like a shrine. Well, on this day I sud- 
denly saw Levitch look at the portrait, and an expres- 
sion came to his face I had never seen before. He said 
nothing, but all night I kept thinking of his face and of 
his — loneliness. I suppose it was very sentimental of 
me, Mr. CuUum ? I sometimes think of Mrs. Fittleworth 
in that way, and other people of whom I get fond." 

"Death is an idea and love is an idea," he answered. 
"They are both normal and rational and evolutionarv : 
it is only the sentimental contact of these two ideas 
that makes for unhappiness and remorse. Say, you once 
told of a little lady who helped you when you were a 
kid—" 

"Miss Merson! I 'd almost forgotten her." 

" Ah ! And once I guess you thought of her like that. 
Listen, Olga, you 've got something big in you. You 're 
one of the rare ones. Don't fiddle about with friend- 
ships." 

"What do you mean by that?" 

"I mean that we 're all hemmed in by material de- 
mands, by animal demands, by sentimental demands. 
We have to fight our way out. Some of us never fight 
our way out. We get crushed and die. But you have 
already 'hitched your wagon to the star,' as we say. 
My! the way you played that Liszt rhapsody was sim- 
ply — " He blinked at tlie sun-bathed landscape as 
though searching for a suitable epithet, and then sud- 
denly affirmed in a deep voice, "bully!" 

Olga blushed with pleasure, and took a rose she had 



"IDEAS" 193 

been wearing at her breast, and buried her nose in its 
petals. 

"It 's nice of you to talk like this," she said, "but 
I don't altogether understand you. You seem to think 
that because I can play a little I 'm necessarily a high 
moral type of person, and then you don't seem to want 
me to have friends ! ' ' 

The grave-faced boy thought for some moments, and 
then he looked down into the valley, and said : 

"As I see you and your life, it 's like this. An artist 
is always hampered bj^ the chimera of ambitions he 
does n 't attempt to qualify. They usually take the form 
of material success. On the other hand, he is handi- 
capped by a too-sympathetic heart. You remember tell- 
ing me the story of how you followed the lantern up 
the hill? You must have believed in that lantern very 
implicitly. Why? Because it embodied to you a des- 
perate craving for spiritual development. You have 
the right stuff in you. Material claims lose their ap- 
peal, friends die and are forgotten, and in the end noth- 
ing is left but — the instinct of worship ! ' ' 

"Worship?" 

"It is perhaps the same thing as your friend calls 
'looking at life like a child.' As I see it, yours will not 
be a life of great friendship — for friendship has no place 
in 'ideas' — but it should be a life of great passions." 
He paused and fumbled with the lapel of his coat, and 
then continued : "I envy you that. It is only the elect 
who are capable of great passions, and they hew their 
way to realms where we cannot follow them." As he 
said this, a young peasant came slowly round the bend, 
leading a horse and cart laden with ferns. 



194 OLGA BARDEL 

He was young and strong, with queer dark eyes, and 
he looked at her with a lazy insolence. The sun was be- 
ginning to set, and the lines of the bracken were broken 
by the long shadows from the larch trees. As the cart 
bumped over the slope she heard the musical tones of 
the peasant's voice speaking to the horse, and through 
the shadows cast from the trees she saw square patches 
of sunlight on his bronzed body. At that moment a 
curious feeling of exhilaration came to her. In a flash 
she seemed to see her life like the golden panorama in 
front of her, series of splendid actions and fine episodes 
of which she would be the guiding figure. She turned to 
her companion, and his grim strong gaze was fixed in a 
dreamy contemplation of the scene. 

She suddenly thought, ''One day perhaps some one 
will come down from the mountains like that . . . some 
one who will understand, who will see things with my 
eyes, some one to whom everything will matter tremen- 
dously. ' ' 

For some reason she felt afraid to pursue the tenor 
of these thoughts, and she said to her fellow-wanderer : 

"We must be going." 

They walked in silence down the hill. As they neared 
the outskirts of the town, she said: 

"Next week we are going back to England." 

And he answered : 

"And I will be going back to Los Angeles." 

"We must be friends still — in spite of my illusions, 
Mr. Cullum. You must write to me. ' ' 

lie strode along in silence, and then he said : 

"One of the greatest illusions of humanity is — topog- 
raphy. A man leaves a town in England and goes to 



11 



IDEAS" 195 



live in a town in British Columbia, and by this means 
believes that he is 'seeing the world' or 'broadening his 
outlook.' Place can make no difference. My friendship 
would only hamper you. I will like to think of you go- 
ing on, leading a big life. Let yourself alone. You 've 
got the right stuff, and I don't see ambition destroying 
you like it does some others. I have ambitions too, and 
I expect I have illusions, but I have no illusions about 
my own abilities and I have no illusions about topog- 
raphy. I '11 be going back to San ]\Iartino — it 's just 
a bunch of wooden shacks nestling in a valley. Don't 
you think I can be ambitious there ? If you don 't think 
I can, you 're wrong! It 's 'ideas' that make a man's 
ambitions. But, Gee! the way you played that rhap- 
sody!" 

They neared an inn, by the door of which a man with 
a dark mustache was playing a mandolin. He smiled 
at them and showed his splendid teeth. Inside the inn 
four peasants were having an impromptu dance, their 
bodies swaying to the rhythm of the wild Bohemian 
music. 

Olga caught her breath, and she felt her heart beating 
rapidly. Then they passed on. The sun had nearly set, 
and the sky was flooded livid color. 

She suddenly said: 

"Nature is very violent." 

Her companion seemed to be thinking, and he looked 
at her queerly, but did not answer. She felt the need 
of trying to express something stirring within her. She 
walked closer to him and said rather breathlessly: 

"Even in my time I have seen lives and people 
destroyed by passion and violence. ... It seems terrible 



196 OLGA BARDEL 

that what we desire most brings us the greatest pain. 
We want to be loved, to be understood, and then the 
thing destroys us." 

He took her arm and led her towards the gate of the 
house where the Fittleworths lived. He seemed for the 
moment on the point of saying something, and then he 
changed his mind. He strode forward, his eyes fixed 
on the ground. When they arrived at the gate, he smiled 
and took her hand, and, looking at her, he said: 

"Sometimes it 's worth it, though, I guess !" 

She felt that this remark somehow crystallized the 
thought she wanted to express, and yet the significance 
of which she could not at the moment determine. She 
felt a curious little stab of pride, like she had felt on 
that night when the young Hungarian officer made love 
to her, and she smiled uncertainly at her fellow-traveler, 
and went quickly through the gate. 

And Irwin Cullum passed on down the road and out 
of her life ; and she did not know that in his large hand 
he held the crumpled petals of the rose that she had 
thrown away. 



CHAPTER II 



"the guildepord set" 



IT is perhaps only consistent with the general pre- 
cocity of our heroine that within two months of 
her twentieth year she was married and the 
mother of a son. 

But before chronicling the events that led up to this 
desirable attainment, it may be advisable to give some 
description of what was known in those days as "The 
GuildefordSet." 

Walter Guildeford and his wife ]\Iarion, with their 
two sons, Edward and Giles, and their two daughters, 
Agnes and Christobel, lived in a medium-sized house in 
St. John's Wood, with a studio and a large garden. 
Walter Guildeford was a publisher of works of refer- 
ence. They were a very devoted, lovable family, and 
they kept a sort of open house for the waifs and strays 
of the artistic and musical professions in the neighbor- 
hood and elsewhere. It was an attractive garden, and 
contained an excellent tennis-court, where any after- 
noon in the summer one could be sure of getting a game, 
and of finding congenial people who were pleased to 
see one, and who were willing to talk, or play, and to 
give one tea. In the winter, or if the weather was wet 
in the summer, you would find them in the studio play- 

197 



198 OLGA BARDEL 

ing paper games. Some people said that the principal 
attraction was the tennis-court and the studio, for it was 
difficult to find about the Guildefords themselves any 
particular quality that would cause them to be the cen- 
ter of so many shining lights of the art world at that 
time. 

They were a physically unattractive family, having 
badly proportioned figures, and very plain faces. They 
were all short-sighted and wore thick glasses, except the 
mother, and Christobel — Avhom people used to call 
"Robin" for some reason or other. Neither can it be 
said that their mentality was of a very high order. They 
never expressed particularly original or individual points 
of view, and they were quite devoid of any critical 
faculty, having an unqualified admiration for the work 
of any one who had the habit of visiting their tennis- 
court. They were, however, very quick and intelligent, 
and one was immediately conscious of their innate kind- 
ness, and their loyalty to each other and their friends. 
Their dominant characteristic was their unselfishness. 
They were surely one of the most elaborately unselfish 
families that ever existed. They carried their principle 
of unselfishness to such a degree that it was always de- 
feating its own ends. For instance, Mrs. Guildeford 
would get an idea from some stray remark of his that 
"Walter"— as the whole family called Mr. Guildeford— 
wanted to go to the East Coast for his summer holidays. 
She hated the East Coast herself, and she knew that if 
she suggested going they would see through her, because 
she never expressed any personal predilections about 
anything. So she would tell the girls on the quiet that 
their father wanted to go to the East Coast. Now the 



''THE GUILDEFORD SET" 199 

girls hated the East Coast also, but they would pretend 
that they wanted to go, so that Mrs. Guildeford could 
tell Walter that they did. Walter had never meant any- 
thing by his stray remark, and he detested the East 
Coast more than any of them, but understanding that 
his wife and the girls wanted to go there, he would fall 
in with the idea with alacrity. And the boys would 
give up an invitation to Devonshire — a county that they 
loved — for the dubious benefits of the east wind, for the 
same reason. It is recorded that the Guildefords went 
to the East Coast for seven years running before they 
discovered that none of them really liked it ! This sys- 
tem of secret scheming and planning to do what the 
others might want went through everything, and gen- 
erally resulted in none of them getting what he or she 
really liked. They tried to forestall each other's wishes, 
and read each other's desires before they were expressed, 
and even when they were expressed they had to be 
suspected. It became terribly involved at times. They 
really could not trust each other. It was perhaps this 
quality of never expressing personal wishes or ideas, 
and never making remarks that might run counter to the 
feelings of the people they loved, that rather tended to 
give the Guildefords a negative character; and though 
their garden and studio became a headquarters of the 
"Guildeford set," the Guildefords themselves were not 
essentially the pivots of that set. It was remarkable 
the people who used to go there. There was a family 
of extremely pretty girls, called the Callabys, to whom 
in appearance the Guildefords acted as a kind of foil. 
They were very great friends. Two of them, IMildred 
and Cicely Callaby, were actresses by repute, though no 



200 OLGA BARDEL 

one had ever heard of them having an engagement, ex- 
cept occasionally at some special matinee for some So- 
ciety for the Advancement of the Higher Drama. But 
they brought there quite a lot of well-known actors and 
actresses, for whom they seemed to have endearing nick- 
names. Mildred Callaby was engaged to a rather dirty- 
looking sculptor named Rodney Chard. Glebes the 
'cellist played quite a good game of tennis. Sir James 
Penn, the R.A., and both his sons were frequent visitors, 
and the great John Braille, who rode up on horseback, 
brought an atmosphere of aristocratic artistry into the 
place. Among others that one can remember offhand 
were McCartney the painter, and Eric "Waynes, who 
wrote ''Celtic twilight" verses in Chelsea, Boder the 
dramatic critic, and his sister, who edited a Women's 
Rights paper, Godfrey Beel the architect, who was the 
only one who really played tennis well, and a boy known 
as "Scallops." 

In addition to this there were invariably people stay- 
ing in the house, and a procession of girls who seemed 
to be Agnes and "Robin's" "best friends." There was 
also an American woman whom nobody could quite lo- 
cate. Her name was Polly Jocelyn Mainwright Wil- 
lard. The name alarmed you, but she was, as a matter 
of fact, a delightful person. She was elderly and very 
square and broad, and had deep gray-brown eyes. She 
may have been some sort of relative, in any case every 
one kissed her, including Mr. Guildeford, and any one 
else who felt in need of mothering, and every one called 
her just Polly. She was nearly always staying there, and 
was a tower of strength on many difficult occasions. 
She had an engaging way of saying right out things 



"THE GUILDEFORD SET" 201 

which the Guildefords would hesitate over for months. 
When the Fittleworths returned to London for good, 
they settled down again in the house in Mazeburgh 
Square ; and it was arranged that Olga should give three 
recitals, with a month's interval between, and that she 
should play under her own name of Olga Bardel. Mrs. 
Fittleworth allowed the agent to advertise them well, 
but without any undue flourish. When the day of her 
first recital arrived, she discovered a new quality in her- 
self that she had not experienced before, a feeling of in- 
tense nervousness. She could not account for this, but 
it was a condition she never afterwards got over, 
wherever or whenever she played. She was so nervous 
that she made three slips in the first piece she played, and 
got hopelessly involved in the turnings of a Schumann 
arabesque. After that she played desperately and grad- 
ually regained her composure. She knew that Mr. Case- 
well was in the audience, and she thought, "I will show 
him how much I have improved. ' ' She played the Liszt 
B minor sonata better than she had ever played any- 
thing in her life. She rose from the piano-stool with 
her face flushed and confident. She enjoyed the rest of 
the program and enraptured the audience with a per- 
formance of a Chopin group, charged with the glow of 
fine color. Her success was assured, but somehow differ- 
ent. She was more moved by it and yet more sobered. 
She could hardly speak when Mr. Casewell came and 
gripped her hand and said, "You have come into your 
own, Olga. It was grand!" Many people came and 
congratulated her, most of whom she did not know. 
She felt that she had really affected them in some way, 
something of herself had gone out. Mrs. Fittleworth 



202 OLGA BARBEL 

kissed her and said, "I 'm so proud of you, dear," and 
the little girls were almost speechless. 

They returned to Mazeburgh Square and had a merry 
supper-party, and Olga did not sleep till dawn, going 
over everything she had played again and again, and 
dreaming of the world at her feet. 

The press the next day was encouraging, but there 
were no superlatives, and several papers spoke mostly 
about the slips she had made in the earlier pieces. Two 
of them mentioned that they believed Olga Bardel was 
the same person as the little girl Olga Barjelski, who 
had made some sensation a few years back as an infant 
prodigy. But the public has a short memory for prodi- 
gies, and the allusion did not arouse much interest. 

Olga was disappointed to find that in spite of her suc- 
cess it did not seem likely that she was to have many 
engagements that summer, and the agent — a gentleman 
named Whitbread — said that the great thing was ''to 
keep pegging away." 

At her second recital, the hall was by no means full, 
and Mr. Casewell had sent out some tickets for her. 
Among other people he sent to were the Guildefords, 
whom she did not know. But afterwards Agnes and 
Christobel came round to see her, and brought a nice tall 
man named John Braille. She had never met people 
before who were so affectionate at sight as the Guilde- 
ford girls. They raved about her to her face, would 
hardly let her go, and ultimately invited her to come and 
see them, and asked if she played tennis. She had 
played tennis once or twice at Prague, and she accepted 
their invitation, "Any afternoon," said Agnes, as they 
were leaving. "Do come." 



''THE GUILDEFORD SET" 203 

And so it came about that on a certain afternoon in 
June, Olga, wearing a wonderful frock of gray-blue, with 
a black hat, made her initial appearance at the Guilde- 
fords, little suspecting how her visit was to be fraught 
with fateful consequences to herself. She had never 
been among people like that before in her life. They 
all seemed so clever, and said such surprising things. 
She felt that every remark of hers was ordinary and un- 
necessary, so she remained very silent, watching them. 
There was something very charming about them all, in 
spite of their cleverness. They seemed so ingenuous and 
genuinely affectionate. She was surprised that both 
the girls kissed her, although they had only met her 
once before. It was curious, too, that she felt a slight 
repugnance at this action. They were lovable girls, but 
they were physically slightly repelling, and she thought 
that if she had been allowed to choose she would have 
liked to know them a little longer first. They intro- 
duced her brazenly to people as "Olga Bardel — that 
perfectly adorable pianist." They talked about her in 
a laughing, admiring manner, about her clothes, her 
hair, her deportment. They made her play tennis, and 
she was relieved to find how badly they all played, but in 
what good spirit. She was conscious of many under- 
currents in certain games when it seemed to be desirable 
to let the other side win. As on occasions the other 
side also harbored desires of a like nature, the tennis 
did not reach a very high standard. But it all seemed 
amazingly free and interesting to her. She did not 
know who all the people were, and they were often in- 
troduced to her by their nicknames. But they were all 
people who had "jobs," she was sure of that — they 



204 OLGA BARDEL 

talked of their jobs and each other's jobs in an easy- 
going, sympathetic manner. And the nice Mr. Braille — 
who they said was a very great painter — talked to 
her about her job, and seemed to have a peculiar 
insight into its intimacies for one who was not a musi- 
cian. 

It was on the occasion of her second visit that the 
thing happened. 

Mrs. Fittleworth had gone over to Paris for a few 
days on business, and the weather had become duller. 
On a certain afternoon Olga had a strange fit of de- 
pression. She had had a slight tiff with Emma over 
some question in which their point of view in regard 
to a book they had been reading did not coincide. She 
was feeling a little discouraged about her work. Her 
second recital had apparently been another great suc- 
cess, but Mr. Whitbread did not seem to have booked 
her for more than two engagements, and they were in 
the autumn. The large house in Mazeburgh Square 
seemed lonely, and the streets did not entice her. She 
felt suddenly very much alone in the world. She thought 
she would practise, and then changed her mind. After 
a time she put on her hat and went out. She took a 
'bus to St. John's Wood and went to the Guildefords. 
It seemed a ridiculous day to go. It was cold, and 
might rain at any minute, and no one would want to 
play tennis. When she arrived the garden was empty, 
but the studio door was open. She peeped in, and heard 
Agnes cry out delightedly, "Why, it 's Olga!" and arms 
were thrown round her neck. 

Christobel was also there, and Giles, and Mildred 
Callaby, and Rodney Chard, and the boy they called 



(( 



THE GUILDEFORD SET" 205 



McCartney. Thej' were apparently all doing nothing, 
and Christobel exclaimed: 

"Oh, you 're just the person, dear. Do play to us. 
We 're all so disagreeable." 

Olga felt rather in the mood for this, and she sat 
down and played some old Bohemian folk-songs that 
Levitch had lent her copies of in the manuscript. The 
Guildefords loved it. They lay on ottomans and smoked 
cigarettes and adored her. She came to the conclusion 
some time after that they were not really a musical 
family. They were always more concerned with her 
appearance and atmosphere. 

After she had played three of these folk-songs, she 
heard some one say, ' ' Why, here 's Harry ! ' ' 

She rose from the piano, feeling that the atmosphere 
was in some way disturbed, and walked away. As she 
did so, her eyes met those of a young man standing b}' 
the door. She started. It was very strange ! And yet 
she could not think for the life of her what it was that 
was strange. She had felt the music very much, that 
restless disturbing throb that seemed to accompany all 
the music from the Bohemian hills. In a flash she re- 
called that day when she returned from the walk and 
saw the peasant leading the cart, and he had looked at 
her "with a certain insolence." This music came to 
her so often when she was restless. It penetrated her 
with a bitter-sweet thrill. There were times when she 
was almost afraid to play it. She believed the others 
were speaking to her, asking her to go on, or raving 
about her frock. She did not know. She was very near 
the door, and those dark eyes were peering into hers, 
and a voice said in a deep musical cadence: 



206 OLGA BAEDEL 

"Please go on." 

She did not speak, but looked away from him. There 
was a skylight in the studio, and the branches of a 
plane-tree were visible on which some noisy sparrows 
were quarreling. She looked from them to her hands, 
and for some reason or other brought them together 
with a rapid little action of supplication, and then flung 
them apart. She looked back to where the piano stood 
almost invisible against the wall, and waited. 

"Please go on. It was glorious." 

The tones of the voice had a quality that was new to 
her, poignant and vibrating. She felt something within 
her stirring, as though the key of her mental and moral 
outlook were being suddenly transposed. She did not 
want to play again. Something told her it were better 
not to, better to go away, or laugh, or play some Bach, 
or do something that would establish a definite hold over 
her cosmic consciousness. And yet she went, by some 
irresistible impulse, back to the piano. She sat down 
and played the maddest thing, a wild Hungarian dance 
with a plaintive second theme that quivered in the back- 
ground like the ghost of an outraged lover. It always 
disturbed her very much, this wild tune. It was so 
desperate, so passionate, so unutterably sad. She was 
glad when she had finished that it was almost dark. 
Her heart was beating very fast, and she breathed in 
little short stabs. They all moved away, and she went 
out into the garden. She wanted to be quite alone for 
a moment. She walked round by the studio and peered 
into an old timbered summer-house. It was a place no 
one ever went into, because it got so dirty. She heard 
the voices of the others laughing and talking by the door 



"THE GUILDEFORD SET" 207 

of the studio. She put her haud to her brow and waited. 
She knew it would happen, and she hardly looked up. 
lie was standing there two paces from her, and said in 
those furry tones: 

"How gloriously you play!" 

She did not answer for some moments. She was try- 
ing to control herself entirely. Then she said: 

"They're fine, aren't they? — those old folk-songs." 

She looked at his face. The eyes and hair were very 
dark. He was very young. She had seen a boy like 
that in some old Italian painting — she could never re- 
member the names of painters. She believed in the 
painting he was nude, with small wings on his heels, and 
there were two very beautiful women in the picture and 
a cupid. She did not know what they were all doing, 
but they were obviously gods and goddesses, unreal peo- 
ple. One must be a god or be unreal to have such beau- 
tiful eyes, and a voice that — went through one like 
that . . . 

"I came to-day because I thought you might be 
here ... I was at your recital. . . . What a ripping 
frock that is!" 

She laughed. It was a relief that a god used such 
ordinary expressions. She strolled round the garden, 
and he followed her. It did not seem strange that they 
should not have been introduced, or that he should have 
spoken to her like that. They did not speak again, for 
the others strolled across the lawn and joined them, and 
Mr. Guildeford came home, and talked to the god about a 
sale he had been to at Sotheby's that afternoon. Olga 
was impressed by the knowledge the god seemed to dis- 
play about old and rare books, and the deference and 



208 OLGA BARDEL 

attention that Mr. Guildeford seemed to pay him. She 
noted the gleams of light that illumined his face when 
he smiled, and the gay brilliance of his remarks to the 
others when the conversation became more general and 
discursive. He said things that conveyed nothing to 
her, and the others laughed or flashed their approval. 
And she found herself feeling proud at this. It seemed 
only right that in a brilliant throng, the god should be 
the most brilliant, and he had said, ''How gloriously 
you played ! ' ' 

She slid away from this gathering without saying 
good-by. She felt a certain diffidence, as though she 
might not carry it off in the right way. 

She made up her difference with Emma in the evening 
when she got back, but she was strangely abstracted and 
went to bed early. She had much to think about, but 
one thought obsessed her. She must educate herself. 
She must learn up all sorts of subjects so as to be able 
to talk to her god and the others. After a time she put 
on her dressing gown and went down to Mrs. Fittle- 
worth's library. She routed amongst the books, and at 
last took a copy of a play by Mr. Bernard Shaw up to bed 
with her. She had heard them talk of Bernard Shaw. 
She rapidly read one act of "Mrs. Warren's Profes- 
sion," and her eyes sparkled. Yes! this was it. She 
had heard them talk rather like this. These were the 
sort of things they said to each other. But it was hor- 
rible. She could not understand a lot of it. All the 
people seemed to talk in the same way. She wondered 
why they talked like that, and what they meant. Occa- 
sionally something would come to her, something reason- 



"THE GUILDEFORD SET" 209 

able and true, and then they seemed to fly off at a tan- 
gent. 

"I shall never be able to talk like that," she thought. 
"One must be awfully clever. How does one begin?" 
She read part of the introduction, but it seemed more 
and more diflficult. The feeling of loneliness came to 
her again, and on that oppressive night she cried, cried 
because the vision of her inability to talk like one of 
Bernard Shaw's heroines came between her and the 
eyes of the god. 

It was strange how difficult the days became after 
that, difficult and disturbing, yet mellowed with a pene- 
trating sweetness. She would not go again to the 
Guildefords for some time. It would look as though 
she went to meet him. She tried to work very hard, 
but that face was always coming between her eyes and 
the keys, and the mellow tones of the voice followed 
her about the room — "How gloriously you played!" 
This was specially so in the afternoons when the sun 
shone again, and she thought to herself, "I might be 
there now, talking to him." She pictured him walking 
on the Guildeford lawn, with the white scarf round his 
neck, his dark eyes flashing as he talked to the others, 
and all the while furtively watching for her. Would 
he be watching for her? This thought disturbed her 
more than anything. She had never had any one who 
watched for her hungrily like that. Ah ! if it were 
true ! 

On the Saturday she went again. It was a warm 
bright day, and there were many people there. He was 
playing tenuis when she arrived, in a four with the 



210 OLGA BARDEL 

Callaby girls and the boy IMcCartney. She fought her 
way through the general effusion and sat on a deck chair 
on the slope above the tennis-court. The god glanced 
at her and smiled. The voice of Boder, the dramatic 
critic, was drawling in an insistent iteration : 

"His construction is bad! His construction is bad! 
Now, a play that is based upon some moral propaganda, 
upon the conflict of social forces, requires to be treated 
in the grand manner. Much has to be sacrificed to the 
concentration on the main idea. Now, you will notice 
that when Lady Cheevil leaves Hemingway at the be- 
ginning of the second act, and he opens the telegram 
from Olive ..." 

She did not know whether he was playing well, but 
did any one ever return a ball with such grace ! She 
thought perhaps she liked him best when he was stand- 
ing negligently at the net. She liked the easy pose of 
his body, and the alert way he swayed to crush a return 
from his partner's serve. His teeth gleamed and he 
gave a boyish whoop of glee at the successful execution 
of the stroke. A girl in a brown djibbah was saying: 

' * My dear, the color makes you squirm ! Pinks, and 
greens, and orange, painted, I should think, with a nail- 
brush. It reminds me of those awful colored diagrams 
of diseases of people's insides. You know, you can see 
them at the College of Surgeons. Roony says ..." 

The set was finished. He was putting on his coat and 
saying something amusing to Mildred Callaby, and she 
was shaking her racket at him. The four broke up, and 
scattered into the group, and "Robin" was trying to 
make up another four, but was experiencing the usual 
difficulty at the Guildefords, everybody apparently in- 



(( 



THE GUILDEFORD SET" 211 



sisting that it was "their turn to sit out." Olga re- 
fused to play, and tried to talk to IMcCartney. He was 
a nice boy, round and fat, but very silent. lie had an 
unconquerable habit of scribbling on bits of paper, and 
making surreptitious sketches of people which he would 
never show. He could not keep his hands still. They 
called him "The Oracle," partly on account of his 
silence, and partly because he occasionally let drop some 
cryptic phrase that became historical and was quoted. 
He had a genius for giving people nicknames, and for 
summing them up in Attic metaphors. The Oracle, 
however, was in an unresponsive mood this afternoon, 
and it was another voice that suddenly vibrated near 
her, 

"You ought to be able to play tennis well." 

"Why?" 

"From the way you play Bohemian dances." 

"I 'm afraid it 's very different." 

''Con fuoco! Tempestiioso!" 

"I 'm afraid the balls might go out, or be hit into 
net, if I played tennis too much like that." 

"They wouldn't if you wanted them not to." 

It was a ridiculous conversation. Their eyes were 
searching each other's, and yearning to say other things, 
and they were hemmed in, with all these good people 
around them. Olga arose and strolled towards the cor- 
ner of the lawn where tea was being prepared. He fol- 
lowed her. When they were just out of earshot of the 
others, he said in a low tone : 

"Where have you been? Why didn't you come be- 
fore? All this week I—" 

She looked at him quickly. She was inexperienced 



212 OLGA BARDEL 

in these affairs, but something told her that things were 
progressing too rapidly. It came to her mind that she 
ought to be in some way frigid, and yet — a lock of his 
hair shaken free by the exercise curled upon his temple, 
and his eyes were earnest, imploring. 

*'I have been working," she said. 

"Ah ! Will you let me come and see you? Will you 
play to me?" 

The lawn seemed to end abruptly against a trellis. 
A white cloth was spread, and her eye lighted upon the 
contours of a large homemade cake. It had the genial, 
innocuous air that was characteristic of the Guildefords. 
This seemed a desperate adventure. Could she invite 
the young man to Mrs. Fittleworth 's ? What would 
that good lady say and think? She was to return to- 
morrow. 

"Olga dear, will you sit here? Harry?" It was 
the placid voice of Mrs. Guildeford trying, as McCart- 
ney once remarked, to introduce a sort of collectivist 
spirit into a community of anarchists. She sat between 
Harry and Mr. Guildeford, who was in very good spirits, 
and indulged in a lot of mild fun regarding the death- 
dealing properties of the large cake. He warned Olga 
against it, and said that another famous pianist had had 
some of a similar description the previous summer, and 
had not been heard of since. Harry, on the contrary, 
contended that he had heard that the pianist had im- 
proved considerably since eating the cake, that his tone 
had become fuller and more resilient. Mrs. Guildeford 
kept saying: 

"It 's too bad to laugh about my cake." 

It was almost impossible to have any sort of intimate 



"THE GUILDEFORD SET" 213 

conversation at the Guildefords', they had so great a 
sense of this impersonal love of theirs that they never 
realized that two people might like to whisper in corners 
or say exclusive things to each other. After tea she 
was made to play tennis, and the god was not even in the 
same set. It was not till she was going that he made the 
opportunity he had been lying in wait for. He met her 
in the hall and said, "May I walk with you a little 
way?" 

They crossed a bridge over the Regent's Park Canal, 
and took a turning into the Park. And there, on an 
unromantic seat facing the iron railings of the Zoo, he 
made love to her. 

Could this be real ? "Was this the dawn of that desper- 
ate gladness of which the poets never tired to sing? 
Would it really come to her ? Now that they were alone 
they seemed more than ever afraid to speak of what was 
in their hearts. They juggled M^ith the most absurd 
banalities, and only their eyes gave them significance. 
It surprised her, the clearness and the radiance of it all. 
She tore herself away, and all the evening she felt him 
by her, the memory of every little thing he had said and 
every action seemed vivid and poignant. When she 
went to bed his face seemed very near. She could see 
the sentient lines of his mouth and chin, the eyes ador- 
ing her, and hear that voice that touched some hidden 
chords. 

From that day the world assumed a new radiance. It 
was as though all her vital interests became accelerated. 
She walked serenely and found new joys in little things. 
All the terrors of her young life vanished. The forms 
of Uncle Grubhofer and Irene and the Du Cassons were 



214 OLGA BARDEL 

but dim memories behind the veil of time. She felt 
proud and virile. She could not analyze her pride, 
neither did she desire to do so. Life itself was suffi- 
cient. She was very gracious and affectionate to her 
foster-mother and the girls, and developed a surprising 
interest in her clothes. She practised hard, and found 
new and pregnant meaning in the music. She found 
she had to concentrate with greater force, or otherwise 
those eyes would appear between her and the keys. 

On the Wednesday he called. Mrs. Fittleworth had 
been forewarned by a statement that "a clever com- 
poser, a friend of the Guildefords, named Mr. Streat- 
ham, wants to call and play me some of his compositions. 
I hope you won't mind, dear Mrs. Fittleworth?" Mrs. 
Fittleworth was very kind to him, and he was soon an 
established favorite with Emma and MoUie. But it 
seemed strange that it did not apparently occur to either 
of them that she might want to talk to the god alone. 
Even when she suggested showing him her room where 
she worked, the little girls must needs follow. They 
conversed with their eyes, and once he touched her elbow. 
He made her play, but would not play any of his own 
compositions to her. He said she must come and see his 
people. 

This visit took place two days later, and it cannot be 
said that it was a success. He lived with his mother 
and three sisters, all of whom worshiped him, and were 
jealous of his friends. They seemed to Olga rich, con- 
ventional people, rather like refined editions of the Du 
Cassons. They treated her with a frigid courtesy, and 
did not leave her for a second with the god. He played 
some of his own compositions to her, and she felt a little 



"THE GUILDEFORD SET" 215 

puzzled and disappointed. They were very involved 
and clever, but somehow they were not quite what she 
expected of him. She told herself on the way home that 
she was not clever enough to understand them. They 
must be very wonderful. She would study more and 
more, and one day perhaps she would be able to appre- 
ciate them at their full worth. 

They met again at the Guildefords, and it was sur- 
prising that the Guildefords did not see ! Again he 
walked home with her through the Park, and touched 
her hands an unnecessary number of times. 

It was in a punt up the river near IMarlow, under 
the shade of young willows, that things at last took a 
definite turn. He had invited her with one of his sis- 
ters and a young man to whom the sister was engaged, 
and the couples became conveniently separated. He 
tied the punt to the branch of the willow and came and 
sat beside her. Unlike her vision in the Park, where 
everything seemed transcendentally clear, this day took 
on the nature of a dream. She lay on the cushions, and 
watched the glittering sunlight through the branches 
and bathed her hands in the little dark pools beneath 
the boat. Cattle were lowing in a meadow near by, and 
the lapping of the boat against the drift of the stream 
gave the illusion of movement, as though the whole 
thing, boat and river and tree, were drifting away into 
some new and glorious existence. She noticed how 
graceful his pose was as he leaned over the side of the 
boat, the sun bronzing a patch on his neck and shoulder. 
And then he moved toward her. She felt him touching 
her skirt, and the boat wobbled. He was very near to 
her, and she hardly dare look into his eyes. He took her 



216 OLGA BARDEL 

hand, and she heard his voice lower than a whisper. 
*'01ga!" 

Why did he say it like that? She looked at his eyes 
and smiled, and then looked away and down into the 
water. Was it really moving? Was the whole thing 
drifting away out into some unknown sea? 

"Olga dear, you know, don't you?" 

She breathed quickly, feeling a little uncertain of her- 
self, only very, very conscious of him, and the almost 
imperceptible sway of the boat. His face was nearer. 
It was so near, she shut her eyes, dazzled and not know- 
ing how to act. She knew that he was all around her, 
and his lips were upon her eyes. A strange sense of 
repose possessed her. Ah ! if she might never open them 
again, but drift away like this with this river, and the 
tree, and the eternal memory of that moment ! 

' ' Olga dear, look at me. Oh, my darling ! ' ' 

The lips followed their burning course across her 
cheek and settled with a fiery ecstasy upon her lips. 
Then it was that something within her stirred. She felt 
a wild, conflicting tumult of emotions, as though some 
life force were battering at the gates of her soul. The 
impulse of desire stood naked before the mirror of 
its own too fervid expression. Whither? Whither? 
Whither was the river drifting, with all its little par- 
ticles scurrying by the boat ? She gave a cry and thrust 
out her arm, and stammered: 

"Oh, I don't know. I don't know, dear." 

In the silence that followed, she noticed the lines of 
chaf,'rin on his face. Her bosom heaved, and she 
clutched his hands and stroked them feverishly. The 



"THE GUILDEFORD SET" 217 

tears stole down her cheeks. She murmured in little 
jerky sentences: 

"I 'm so sorry. You see, I hardly know, Harry. 
Please don't misunderstand me, dear. My life has been 
very difficult ... all sorts of strange things. Some 
people have been very good to me, of course, but — I 
don 't know ; I feel I want to talk to you lots first. And 
I want you to talk to me." She dabbed her eyes with 
her handkerchief, and he murmured: 

"Olga darling, I know — I know. Only, tell me — I 
may love you, mayn't I? Don't kill me by saying no. 
It doesn't matter what we do or talk about, I shall 
always love you." 

She pulled at his hands feverishly while he tried to 
kiss her cheeks. 

She shut her eyes again and lay back on the cushions, 
and said almost inaudibly: 

"Not like you did just now, dear ... it makes me 
frightened." 



CHAPTER III 



Karl's visit 



MR. and Mrs. Harry Streatham were seated 
on a lounge in their private sitting-room in 
the Hotel du Soleil, Paris. He was smoking 
and they had been silent for some time. At last she 
said: 

''Harry." 

"My darling?" 

** Harry, I want to talk to you. When we get back — 
home, it will be — different there, won't it? We shall 
have our work and — you want me to continue with my 
work, don't you, darling?" 

"Of course, darling; anything you like." 

"Yes, but — you see — I want to — we must work to- 
gether, must n 't we ? You must help me, and I must try 
and help you. Of course I know, dear, it 's no good 
pretending : you 're clever and all that sort of thing, 
and I 'm not. But we must try and see things — with 
each other 's eyes, must n 't we ? " 

"Why, of course, dear. You shall always do as you 
like. Of course, I suppose — " 

"Yes?" 

"Well, just this year, darling, your work may be a 
little — hampered, mayn't it?" 

'Yes . . . yes ... I know," she said, and her lips 

218 



( I- 



KARL'S VISIT 219 

were slightly pale. "But, oh, Harry, you won't want 
me to give up all I 've worked for, will you ? You won 't 
expect always — " 

Streatham rose and knocked his cigarette ash into the 
fireplace, and repeated : 

"Of course, dear, it shall always be as you like. I 
think I '11 go for a stroll round before turning in." 

She saw him yawn and glance at an oleograph of Zer- 
matt that hung on the wall by the door, and then slowly 
pick up his hat that lay on the table. He came over and 
kissed her chin, and said, "Shan't be ten minutes, darl- 
ing." 

With a sudden clear transcendence she beheld her vi- 
sion of him split as by a double refraction ; the splendid 
ease and poise with which he graded these little actions, 
broken by the shafts of supple arrogance that underlay 
them. He was like a cat that gambled on his soft fur 
and the beauty of his lines, expecting from life as his 
traditional prerogative the right to be fed and clothed 
and loved, and allowed to wander at random. He had 
the cat's superb insistence, too — the right to mew for 
what he wanted till he got it, and then to blink and purr 
with satisfaction. 

She noticed the lines of his well-cut clothes as he hesi- 
tated for a second by the door, and the delicate poise of 
his beautiful head as he leaned a little forward and 
gripped the handle. "With a quick movement he turned, 
and smiled at her, and was gone. She sat there, gazing 
at the door, trying to reconcile certain misgivings, cer- 
tain matters that seemed to demand "thinking all over 
again," as Levitch would say. Of course it was all right, 
everything was all right, only — She could hear his 



220 OLGA BARDEL 

voice talking in the hall, to the hall porter, no doubt — 
he liked talking to these people in French; he spoke 
French very well. What was it she was thinking about 
Levitch? Ah! yes, "to think all over again." She 
must n 't forget that. She must n 't lose that faculty. 
He had told her not to — under any circumstances. She 
must be able at all times to look at things like a child, to 
keep her perceptions and impressions fluid and un- 
spoiled. Something like that he had said. What was 
that Harry was saying? He was not talking French at 
all, he was talking English, He was speaking in a 
strange key for him, and there was another voice she 
seemed to recognize, rising in a whining crescendo. She 
heard the drone of the traffic outside, and the pleasant 
tooting of horns, and then the door opened suddenly, 
and Harry stood there, looking somehow ashamed, with 
an expression on his face she had not seen before. He 
was saying: 

"Do you know this person?" 

She glanced from him to a figure that huddled by the 
door, a figure that was grinning at her and muttering: 

"Olger, Olger!" 

She peered at it, and it came closer. It was a man 
with a thin, cadaverous face and close-cropped hair. He 
stooped very much, and held a cloth cap in front of his 
mouth. He gave a furtive glance round the room, and 
it was this movement, accompanied by the tones of the 
voice, that brought home to her the fact that the figure 
was that of her brother Karl ! 

She had the instinct to cry out. She was very moved 
and upset. He was the most pitiable apparition. But 
something rose within her to cope with this feeling of 



KARL'S VISIT 221 

wealoiess. It was a sort of hardening of her heart against 
her husband. She was conscious of his attitude of out- 
rage, as though she had brought some dreadful and un- 
pardonable infliction upon the comfort and security of 
his life. After all, she had told him about her family. 
It is true he had hardly seemed to listen, as though such 
things were outside the pale of his imagination, as though 
she were picturesquely exaggerating. And nothing 
could alter this: it was her brother, a poor broken 
creature, object for any one's pity rather than contempt. 
And he, he ought to have been sorry for her and for him, 
but instead of that he almost bullied her before her 
brother's face. She steadied herself and said very de- 
liberately : 

''It 's my brother— Karl. " 

She was conscious of her husband giving a sudden 
vicious tilt to his hat, and turning aside, and then light- 
ing a cigarette, and of the voice of Karl in a thin, quaver- 
ing key : 

"I 'm sorry, Olger, to disturb yer, I 'm right down 
on me luck, old girl — I see you git out of a feeaker this 
evening and come into the hotel with this toff. I waited 
for yer — I thought yer might come out again. I 'ope 
you 're all right, Olger, I 'ope things are all right?" 

She put out her hand, and shook Karl 's, and said very 
calmly: 

"Yes, I 'm all right, thank you, Karl. "What are you 
doing in Paris?" 

The derelict blew on his fingers and shuffled from one 
leg to the other, and then answered : 

"I come over 'ere some time ago. I 'ad a job in some 
stables at Shanteely, I been doin' different things. I 



222 OLGA BARDEIi 

got a touch of the roomatiz in me shoulder some time 
back — I was in a 'orspital." 

He blinked at the magnificence of the little salon, and 
repeated, "Yer doin' all right then?" 

A sudden inspiration came to the wife of Harry 
Streatham, and she walked to the fireplace and rang the 
bell ; at the same time she said : 

"Come and sit down, Karl, and tell me all your news. 
You '11 have some supper, won't you?" 

She noticed that, as the waiter entered, her husband 
shrugged his shoulders and went out. She ordered some 
cold chicken and salad, and a small bottle of red wine. 
It was a strange meal. Never at any time had she and 
Karl had anything in common except this mutual de- 
sire for food. 

He looked at her furtively and self-consciously, nib- 
bling his food like a rat. He did not seem very hungry, 
but he gulped the wine greedily. As he sat there, the 
vision of the old room in Canning Town came back to 
her. She could almost see the black wood of the chimney- 
piece, and the worn spot on the cupboard door where 
dirty hands — just above her reach — had rubbed it bare, 
she could see the lighting of it revealing the tattered 
blind, and Irene bending over the table, ironing. 

"Are you merried to this bloke?" 

It was Karl 's voice that broke upon her dream. Was 
she married ? She knew that in some circles such a ques- 
tion would rouse indignation, but, after all, why should 
Karl know ? What chances had Karl ever had ? 

"Yes," she answered. 

"Got money?" came the next question slick upon her 
answer. She knew that this was a natural corollary to 



KARL'S VISIT 223 

the suggestion of happiness, from Karl's point of view. 
Had she got money ? Honestly she did not know. Some, 
at any rate. She had heard people say that the Streat- 
hams were well off, and she knew that Harry had his 
remittance regularly. It was in any case ample, enough 
to be happy upon. It was Karl himself who eventually 
answered his own question. 

' ' 'E dresses yer all right — anyway. ' ' 

Somehow this statement struck the first really ob- 
jectionable note that Karl had so far indulged in. It 
emphasized the idea of possession so crudely. He 
dressed her all right ! It was true ; she was bedecked 
and splendid, and led about like a prize animal through 
Europe. Ah, no! Harry was not like that. He liked 
her to look well, but he would not harbor such a mean 
concept of her. He was too sensitive, too refined. Be- 
sides, was she not a free woman, and no man's property? 
Had she not played in all the towns of England, and 
"the people had paid to hear her"? Any time she 
could go away again, and earn enough money for all 
practical ideas of happiness. She thought she would 
shift the ground of this personal inquisition, and she 
said: 

"Have you heard any news of the others, Irene or 
Montague?" 

"No," said Karl. "Montague went to Orstrj^lia, I 
believe. I never 'card from 'im. I see Irene two years 
ago. She was livin' in fine style in B'yswater. She 
was 'a keep,' I think — seemed to 'ave pots of money — 
never gave me none, though." 

A sudden horrible dread came over Olga. 

"What do you mean by 'a keep'?" she asked. 



224 OLGA BARDEIi 

"Why, you know," chuckled Karl. "Being kept by 
some bloke!" 

"Do you mean — " gasped his sister, and then she 
steadied herself, and asked quickly, "What sort of man 
was he, do you know ? ' ' 

Karl swirled the claret round in his glass, and said: 

"Seemed to have a bit of stuff. They was liviu' all 
right, got a servant and that." 

Was there no other standard by which Karl could 
judge these things ? Was he entirely dead to any human 
feeling or sensibility? What could she ask him that 
he would understand? He did not seem to know the 
man's name, or to have kept a record of their address. 
His only concern in the whole business seemed to be that 
' ' they would n 't give him nothing. ' ' He spoke of Uncle 
Grubhofer, and she could tell by the tones of his voice 
that he still had an unconscionable dread of him. He 
believed he was running some business in Hammersmith, 
a sort of agency concerning which Karl was particularly 
mysterious and leery. 

When these family matters were disposed of, there 
was an interminable pause. Olga racked her brains to 
think of something further to say, and Karl for his part 
stood picking his teeth, with his back to the fire, and 
occasionally looked at her out of his small greedy eyes 
and coughing nervously. At last he said : 

"Well, yer doin' all right then, Olger?" He cleared 
his throat, and prepared the ground for the opportunity 
of the "scoop" which he felt too good to be lost. 

"Is 'pose yer could n 't raise a bit for me ? I got a 
good thing on at Shanteely — a deal over some 'orses a 
friend of mine could put me up to. There 's a French 



KARL'S VISIT 225 

marquis wants to buy a brace of roau mares — I know 
just where to put me 'and on 'em. I could bring off a 
good scoop if I 'ad forty pounds — eh ? D ' yer think 
the toff 'd— " 

Olga resented the attitude with regard to the "toff" 
more than anything, and she felt a burning desire to 
assert herself, to prove to Karl that she was not a puppet 
dangled on a string. She cut the harangue short by 
saying : 

"If you call here to-morrow at twelve o'clock, I will 
lend you forty pounds." 

The face of Karl lighted with amazement mingled with 
regret. It was the easiest thing he had ever pulled off, 
and he was consumed with remorse that he had not asked 
for fifty, or even a hundred. However, he thought it 
wiser to go warily. After all, if forty pounds was so 
easy to raise in this quarter, it could be done again, and 
perhaps again and again. He w^as almost maudlin with 
gratitude, and a little uncertain whether it would not 
be advisable to try and get a little on account to-night. 
After all, it was only Olga who had said that he could 
have forty quid; perhaps when the toff came home — 
however, he did not want to spoil a good effect, and he 
took his departure. 

"When he had gone, she took a book up to bed and 
made a ridiculously abortive effort to read. Harry 
returned just after eleven o'clock. Through half-closed 
eyes she saw him enter her room and peer at her. He 
looked a little ruffled and important, but he smiled at 
her and said, ' ' Asleep, old girl ? ' ' 

She said, "No." 

He whistled under his breath, and said: 



226 OLGA BARDEi; 

"The river looks awfully jolly to-night. I saw a 
regular Goya subject near the Tuileries, looking down 
into some gardens. There were booths lighted up, and 
figures in white caps, and a bonfire burning — " 

He paused and examined some spot on his chin in the 
mirror, and then said, "Your brother went, then?" 

Olga called him to her and held his face very close to 
hers, and whispered breathlessly: 

"Harry darling, I want you to help me. My brother 
is in great trouble. I have promised to lend him forty 
pounds by twelve o'clock to-morrow." 

He started from her and exclaimed, "Forty pounds!" 
and then he laughed uneasily and added: 

"But, my dear girl, I have n't got forty pounds here." 

She said, "No; I thought you might not have, but we 
can get it, can't we? I have promised, you see. If you 
can't get it, I can cable to Mrs. Fittleworth. I am sure 
she would lend me forty pounds." 

Harry got up from the bed and walked up and down 
the room, a shadow passing over his face. 

"I suppose this doesn't mean," he said at length, 
"that this — brother of yours will want to be always 
hanging about, and borrowing money. We don't want 
Mrs. Fittleworth wired to for money on our honeymoon. 
I suppose I could manage it somehow, but — " 

He looked at her, and saw that she was crying. In 
a second his arms were round her and his lips were 
pressed against her cheek. But she was in one of her 
strangely emotional moods. He could not quite under- 
stand her. Why all these tears? 

"I have told you of my people, dear," she gasped. 
"I can't help it — I know they 're different — not like the 



KARL'S VISIT 227 

people you are used to — but, oh, my God ! they are my 
people. I can't cast them off — entirely." She buried 
her face in the pillow. A feeling of splendid magnanim- 
ity pervaded Streatham, and he murmured : 

' ' There, there, darling ! It 's all right, of course. 
We must do what we can. We must try and help them, 
and so on. Come!" 

He tried to kiss her lips, but she shrank from him, 
and shivered in somewhat the same way as she had that 
day upon the river at ]\Iarlow. The situation appeared 
to him very trying. He wanted to be magnanimous, 
but he detested this sort of situation. He shook him- 
self free, and disrobed himself in a deliberate and 
mechanical manner. He felt that it was due to himself 
to exhibit certain traces of hardness and authority. 

They had a horrible time after that, gaging the emo- 
tionalism of each other by opposing standards, misjudg- 
ing, and misunderstanding. He went to sleep in her 
arms at last, and she noticed that his eyes were wet with 
tears also. In the still night she could see his face, by 
the pale reflection of the moon, sleeping and breathing 
heavily like a spoilt child. Had she been cruel to him? 
Why should she expect him more than any of the others 
to understand everything? It was only that when he 
came, she wanted him so. She had thrown around him 
such a glamour, such a halo. Was he not her god? the 
being who was to respond to all the calls of her slumber- 
ing restlessness? She somehow had imagined that such 
a being would understand, would dovetail with every 
little wish and thought. She had given him a divinity, 
and it was a cruel and perverse standard for her to have 
set up. To-morrow she would be kinder and more con- 



228 OLGA BARDEL 

siderate, as became one who was to be the mother of his 
child. 

Before they left for England, Karl had reaped his 
maximum "scoop." He set forth on a wild bacchanale 
through the cafes of Montmartre with notes for six hun- 
dred francs in his pocket, and an address in London 
where he expected that in a crisis he could get some 
more. 

The Streathams returned from their protracted honey- 
moon, and occupied a small but distinguished-looking, 
modern Georgian house in Hampstead. 

It was a proud day for Olga when, with everything in 
order, she dispensed tea in her own drawing-room to 
Mrs. Fittleworth and her girls, and the Guildefords, 
and many of their other friends. And it was with a 
thrill of pleasure that she once more started practising 
on her own grand piano, given her as a wedding present 
by Mrs. Fittleworth. 

She found, however, that her practising was subject 
to very serious disruptions. She had the responsibility 
of three servants, and they seemed to vie with each 
other in causing dissensions and upsetting "the master." 
And they had a genius for leaving at the most inoppor- 
tune moments, and for banging doors and making 
unseemly disturbances. Moreover, Harry had a great 
idea of sociability. At least two or three evenings a 
week he required to have people asked to dinner, and 
on the other evenings he liked to go out to dine with 
other people, or go to the theater or the Queen's Hall. 
All these things distracted her, and tended to eat into 
the valuable time and effort that still remained to her 
before she would have to retire for the while. It was 



KARL'S VISIT 229 

only by great persuasion that she managed to get Harry 
to consent to her giving another recital in October. He 
seemed to think it rather a waste of time and money, as, 
"if she got engagements from it, she might not be able 
to fulfil them." 

It grieved her to know that Levitch had decided not 
to come to London again. He would remain now always 
within his walled garden at Prague. He sent her a box 
of peaches, and told her that "a time arrives when it 
is better to say that one becomes old." 

She did not feel happy with the people that Harry 
liked to have round them. They were mostly literary 
people, or people holding positions of direction or pat- 
ronage in the artistic world. They liked to sit over their 
wine and beat about to find surprising theories. They 
drawled recondite phrases in comfortable, detached 
voices, as though they themselves were not a part of life, 
but a sort of coterie of languid thoughts that found in 
life a certain mild field for their expression. Their con- 
versations left her nerveless and physically fatigued. 
The only people she liked were John Braille, who came 
but seldom, and a certain Sir Philip Ballater, who lived 
alone in a large house in Hampstead, near them. He 
was an Englishman who had lived so long abroad that 
he spoke English with a foreign accent. He was a 
middle-aged, distinguished-looking man, and she liked 
him because he had the faculty for silence. They said 
that he had been in the diplomatic service at Vienna, 
but what gave them a common ground of sympathy was 
that he knew and loved Prague, and had met Levitch. 
He was at the present time a director of the National 
Museum of Applied Art, and was considered one of the 



230 OLGA BARDEL 

greatest authorities on armor and ceramics. His house 
was in itself a veritable storehouse of priceless works. 
He had extremely courtly manners and entertained with 
a silent magnificence. 

She was conscious in his house of a sense of repose. 
They dined in a circular hall of black and white marble, 
and at a large circular table, where masses of fresh 
flowers (usually orchids) trailed from a central jar- 
diniere up to the plates of the guests. Well modulated 
lights enhanced the beauty of gleaming silver, and were 
sufficient to make the faces of the diners discernible, but 
vague and interesting. An uncountable number of 
servants glided in and out between the marble columns, 
and silently brought and carried. They were the most 
unnoticeable servants she had ever encountered. The 
only sound audible during the dinner was the sound of 
a fountain that always played in a courtyard off this 
room. She liked the murmur of this running water. It 
seemed to make it not so necessary to force conversation, 
it filled up intervals, and had a message of its own. It 
was true that even here conversations would become 
extremely "precious," but they were less general, and 
one became more intimate with one 's next-door neighbor. 
And if one said something that was not entirely brilliant 
or important, it became lost in the large spaces of the 
room and mellowed by the eternal chant of the running 
water. 

Sir Philip Ballater seemed to take to Olga. He fol- 
lowed her closely with his large pathetic eyes and talked 
at times quite volubly. He showed her all his paintings 
and his ceramics, over which he brooded with a maternal 
tenderness. The house had something of the nature of 



KARL'S VISIT 231 

a show place. After dinner one wandered all over it, 
and sat and talked where one would, or with whom one 
would. It had no centers of attraction, no focus of 
social life. It was all equally beautiful, equally com- 
fortable and equally heated — a passionless, cultivated 
atmosphere. 

One evening after dinner, Sir Philip took her to see 
some jMing that he had just had brought to town from 
his place in the country. It was set on a black case in 
a small room decorated in a Japanese style. He puffed 
feverishly at his cigarette as he approached it, and put 
on his spectacles. He passed his hands over it and asked 
her to feel the glaze. She did so and duly approved. 

"Ah," he said, "dear lady, you should approve if 
any one. There are not many who have the sensitive- 
ness. What you call your color in music, my glaze is 
to me. It is very subtle, very difficult to define, isn't 
it? But it is there." He stroked each piece with a 
lingering caress. 

"Do you mean, Sir Philip," said Olga, "that you can 
tell the different pieces by the touch?" 

"My dear," he said, "it is all I can tell by. I some- 
times come down here when it is quite dark, and talk to 
these children of mine. Is not the value of all life in 
that, the recognition of these finer sensibilities? One 
can never trust the outer semblance of anything. One 
may have a handsome face, or one may conduct the fifth 
symphony of Beethoven brilliantly and correctly, but it 
is only those of us who have the sense to know in the 
dark who can decide if the face is really beautiful, or if 
the performance is really worth doing." 

He looked at her closely, and she was conscious of a 



232 OLGA BARDEL 

sort of magnetic power about him. He sighed and 
closed one of the cases, and they passed through into 
another room and sat down. There was a Musabeh 
screen at the back of them and she heard two voices in 
conversation. One of them was Harry's and the other 
Boder's, the dramatic critic. Boder was saying: 

"As far as that goes, my dear chap, I must acknowl- 
edge that the music of Wagner always has that effect 
on me — 

'Each man kills the thing he loves' 

sort of feeling. That is why I prefer Tchaikowsky. 
He is more definitely passionate — cleaner in a way. I 
am too old to have my emotions honeycombed by these 
abstruse desires — " 

She heard the mellow tones of Harry's voice, perhaps 
made even a little more mellow by the excellent quality 
of Sir Philip's port. 

"I am not contending that the music of Wagner is 
any more immoral than any other music. All music is 
immoral. It is one of the antennie of the senses. One 
of the gay appanages of the creative being, like flowers 
or the beauty of women, all a part of the cunning scheme 
of creation." 

And then the booming voice of Boder: 

"But, my dear chap, what is there immoral in crea- 
tion? or the beauty of sexual attraction, as far as that 
goes ? ' ' 

"Nothing at all," answered Harry's voice. "It is 
only that music appeals to the act and not to the idea. 
It is exclusively sexual. It inspires women with a sort 



KARL'S VISIT 233 

of glamorous sense of surrender, and man with a 
dynamic sense of creation or destruction. The Puritans 
recognized this in the seventeenth century when they 
even abolished music from the churches, or allowed it to 
be performed only by unsexed boj^s. Have you noticed 
how many of the great creative people loathed music ? — 
Darwin, Carlyle, Victor Hugo, Flaubert, and so on. 
Even your 'cleanest composer,' Tchaikowslcy, destroyed 
himself. I said it was one of the antenna? of the senses, 
but I 'm not sure it 's not a diseased antenna, the legacy 
of some perverted god." 

She heard Boder's ingratiating snigger, and his voice 
broken by a slight stammer that often accompanied it: 

"My d-dear fellow, I 'm surprised that you have the 
courage to prosecute such a d-dangerous calling." 

And Harry 's comfortable laugh : 

*'I? Oh, I love it!" 

She caught the eye of Sir Philip and moved away, 
feeling strangely perturbed. AVhy did Harry talk like 
that? AVas it talk? just the love of talk? or did he 
really mean what he said? If he meant what he said, 
why did he never speak to her in that strain ? Was he 
afraid that she would not understand him? or was he 
afraid that she would understand him? 

**Ah, my dear Mrs. Streatham, I must show you my 
Spode. You have not seen my black Spode, have you? 
It has a quality you will admire. ' ' 

He pulled aside a curtain, and bowed in a courtly 
manner. She was not sure whether he had heard the 
conversation and was trying to distract her from its 
possibly unpleasant effects, or whether his mind had 



234 OLGA BARDEL 

never left the cloisters of his temple of earthenware. 
But she stepped gladly past the curtain, feeling that 
in the company of black Spode she would at least inhale 
the incense of tranquillity. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE DRONE OF LONDON 

THE day was close. A humidity hung over the 
Ilainpstead garden, where she lay in a ham- 
mock between the mulberry-tree and the wall. 
The little son was four mouths old, and it was only 
during the last week that she had been out. She had 
been very ill, very ill indeed; and at one time two doc- 
tors had despaired of her. But she was now able to 
walk again, and the child was sleeping up-stairs in 
charge of a nurse. Harry was out for the day, playing 
golf with some friends. The FittleAvorths were in 
Paris. "Robin" Guildeford had called on her the pre- 
vious day, but to-day she felt lonely and restless. She 
got up and went into the drawing-room, and struck a 
few chords on the piano, but her nerves were jaded, and 
her fingers seemed stiff and unresponsive. She went 
back to the hammock and meditated. It seemed very 
silent there, and in the distance she could hear the drone 
of London, a dim, muffled roar. It sounded very sug- 
gestive and remote. It seemed so wonderful that all 
these individual and desperate noises should merge into 
one sound. Seven million people all doing different 
things, struggling, creating, disputing, and then — one 
sound to express the whole. She looked at her watch. 
It was half-past five. Harry would not be back to din- 

235 



236 OLGA BARDEL 

ner till eight. He had gone to Northwood, or Richmond, 
or somewhere. She suddenly got out of the hammock 
and went indoors. She went to the telephone and 
ordered a taxi, and then went up-stairs and put on her 
hat and a cloak. 

When the cab came she told the man to drive to Oxford 
Street. It was pleasant rushing through the air, the 
only thing to do on a day like this. She had been out 
for drives before, but never on so adventurous a journey. 
She had a great desire to see people, all sorts of people, 
good and bad, rich and poor, to split up this insistent 
phrase of sound, as it were, and get in touch with its 
component parts. She was one of the parts herself. 
There must be millions like her, not entirely happy, and 
not entirely unhappy, helping to make this sound. It 
would be something just to glance into their eyes in 
passing. There must be many who were lonely like she 
was, calling restlessly into the void, trying to awake an 
echo. 

The cab wound its way through Camden Town, amidst 
the squalling cacophony from coster stalls and smaller 
shops, and the smell of uncooked meat and fish. In a 
few years they would have all gone, all these component 
parts with their petty trials and tribulations of the 
heart; but still the one sound would go on, droning, 
droning, droning. What did it all mean? Or did it 
mean just nothing? A dull reiteration of the Will-to- 
live, as Plarry would say? 

She dismissed the cab at Portland Road Station and 
started to walk down Great Portland Street. She went 
past some shops, and then took a turning to the left. In 
a few minutes she was amongst mean streets, like those 



THE DRONE OF LONDON 237 

in which she had passed her youth. She saw the be- 
draggled children, pale and ill-nourished, but vaunting 
a sort of strident happiness just like they did in Can- 
ning Town, mostly by noise and by their unconquerable 
imagination. It struck her for the first time what a 
wealth of creative genius was always being born. ^Vith 
pieces of chalk and string and broken boxes, they 
invented games, and deeds, and images of the great 
world. What happened to all this inventiveness that 
was absorbed in the drone of the great city ? She looked 
up, and found her answer in the repelling masonry of 
tenement blocks, and buff gray houses which frowned 
and absorbed the children and ultimately crushed them 
and flung them forth — mere atoms of the dreary iter- 
ation of the Will-to-live. She remembered what Levitch 
had said — "You must never lose that — the power to 
look at life with child-eyes." 

She felt somehow soothed by the desperate fecundity 
of these children; it seemed like the assertion at least 
of some primal divine intention. She thought of her 
own son. He should always look at life "with child- 
eyes." She would fight for that in him. No one 
should rob him of that. lie should keep all his impres- 
sions and intuitions fresh and unspoiled. Was she 
keeping her own? Was it possible? She steadied her- 
self against an area railing. She saw a small girl, very 
dirty, trying to reach a bell. She was a strange, dark 
little thing. She must have been rather like that her- 
self many years ago. She said : 

"Which bell do you want, dear?" 

The child said : 
'Top one. Mrs, Osgrove." 



(<i 



238 OLGA BAKDEL 

She rang the bell for the child, and gave her sixpence. 
The little girl stared at it open-mouthed, and as the door 
opened, dashed in as though she dreaded that the money 
might be taken from her. As she did so, Olga turned 
and noticed an evil-looking man standing by her. He 
had seen the transaction, and he called out: 

" 'Ere!" 

He pushed his way through the door and slammed it, 
and she heard a scuffle and a scream. She instinctively 
banged on the door, but there was no answer, and she 
felt rather as though she was going to faint. She 
stepped out into the road and walked slowly away. The 
action and the fresher air steadied her. She turned back 
into Great Portland Street. She met several girls walk- 
ing furtively, some singly and some in couples. 

"They have been crushed," she thought; "crushed 
and thrown out of the great buildings. Once, perhaps, 
they could build images, and now the world is dead to 
them." 

She passed one fair little French girl. She seemed 
little older than Mollie Fittleworth. A wave of unspeak- 
able pity came over her. She went up to her and sud- 
denly said in a strained voice: 

"May I help you?" 

The girl looked at her quickly, and a bewildered ex- 
pression came over her face — a mixture of doubt, sorrow, 
and a sort of desperate cunning. For a fraction of a 
second she hesitated, and then said : 

"Oh, mon Dieu! no . . . no!" 

She darted down a side street and left Olga staring 
into the face of a man. He grinned at her, and raised 
his hat. She felt rather frightened, and jumped on to 



THE DRONE OF LONDON 239 

a motor 'bus going west. What was this conspiracy of 
destruction? Was that the note of London, a dirge of 
destruction ? Children, women, and men devouring each 
other, and buildings crushing them? Would nothing 
come out of all this? But were these people, in their 
animal vileness, any worse than others who sat at cul- 
tured tables and talked of the Sensuality of Music ? who 
carved all aspirations into libertinous phrases? 

Was the man who stopped her in the street any worse 
than the man who married her and showed a critical 
sense of esthetic values in the thing? It was only that 
he had cast a spell over her, had made her his bond- 
woman, a slave of her own sense of attraction to him. 
Good God ! what was she thinking about ? Were these 
thoughts true ? or only some chimera of this humid day ? 
She had never dared to give them shape before. She 
had thrust them away whenever they dared find entrance 
in her fears, but there was something about the freedom 
of the streets, the friction of the lives of these crude 
people that made her see the clearer. But she would 
not believe that. She loved her husband ; she would set 
her teeth, and wnn out to the end. 

She walked down Regent Street. The varied char- 
acter and costumes of the people excited her. As she 
neared the lower end, she saw two women coming 
towards her. They were apparently of the same class 
as those she had met in Great Portland Street. One 
was rather stout, with fair fuzzy hair, the other was 
dark, with very bright coloring. She had almost passed 
them, when she noticed the dark one nudge the other, 
and she heard her exclaim: 

"My Gawd! if it isn't my sister!" 



240 OLGA BARDEL 

Olga started. She was almost afraid to look. When 
she did, she gazed upon the most horrible sight she had 
ever beheld. A strange feeling of sickness came over 
her and a sense that the world was crashing about her 
ears. Irene's eyes were heavily penciled, her cheeks 
were red, and her mouth was large and loose. Her dark 
hair was cunningly twisted under her hat, and her 
clothes gave her figure a surprising but unconvincing 
development. 

It was strange that in the first moment of that tragic 
meeting, some instinct for the conventions disturbed 
Olga. She wondered whether she ought to let Irene see 
that she understood, whether she ought to be affectionate 
or tragic; she wondered, in short, how she ought to 
behave. The moment seemed so fraught with horror and 
surprise, that it found her nerveless and quite unstrung. 
It was almost a relief that it had apparently no such effect 
on Irene, who seemed quite self-composed, and grinned 
at her with her broad slit of a mouth. All through the 
scene that followed Olga could not take her eyes from 
Irene's mouth. She could not remember her having a 
mouth like that. She could not quite remember what 
Irene's mouth was like, but this one was horrible. 

"Well, 'ow are yer gettin' on? All right?" was 
Irene's greeting, and it occurred to Olga how remark- 
ably identical it was with Karl's greeting. There was no 
need to analyze its meaning. It simply meant, "Have 
you got plenty of money, and enough to eat and drink?" 
She almost dreaded a reference to the "toff," and 
remarks that "he seemed to be dressing her all right." 
She instinctively made up her mind that she wouldn't 
mention her marriage. She managed at last to say: 



THE DRONE OF LONDON 241 

"I 'm all right, Irene. How are you?" 

The duologue was immediately interrupted by the 
third woman, who said : 

"My Gawd! Chadsworth, you never told us you 'ad 
a lady for a sister. Let 's go and 'ave a drop of rum 
and milk." 

Irene laughed in a peculiarly free but mirthless man- 
ner, and stepped to the outside, so that Olga was between 
the two women. They all started to walk slowly down 
a side street in the direction of Soho. 

"Fancy meeting you!" repeated Irene. But it was 
said with no great sense of surprise, no regret, no moral 
misgiving, without conveying any feeling of intimacy 
or personal sympathy. 

"She is crushed," thought Olga; "crushed. I can 
never get her back. She is dead. I must comfort my- 
self by thinking that she is dead. Everything has gone 
out of her. . . . Oh, God! how horrible it is!" 

It was strange how at that tragic hour the person of 
the third woman seemed more attractive and compan- 
ionable to her. She said in a dreary, almost aggrieved 
voice : 

"I 'm surprised at you, Chadsworth, never telling me 
you 'ad a lady for a sister." 

Chadsworth? What did Chadsworth signify? What 
drab story might not be connected with this somewhat 
grandiloquent name ! They turned suddenly to the left 
under a covered way, and Olga found herself being con- 
ducted through a dim cafe where some Italians were 
playing dominoes and drinking vermouth and beer. 
Two other women were sitting near the door, and one, 
a very large person with little earrings, caught hold of 



242 OLGA BARDEL 

Irene and whispered. Olga could not hear what was 
said, but she thought she heard Irene say, ''Of course 
I will, dear." 

There was a curious atmosphere of freemasonry in this 
place. Men and women seemed under some loyal bond. 
They took very little notice of each other, but when they 
did they called each other by affectionate names, and 
exchanged understanding glances. They passed through 
into an inner room where there were several marble-top 
tables, and sat down. The air was very close, and had 
a quality of its own. Olga felt rather faint. A waiter 
with a fair beard came up, and she heard the third 
woman say, "I '11 have my usual. Tommy. What '11 
your sister 'ave, Chaddy ? ' ' Irene was appealing to her, 
but she put her hand to her head and said: 

"I don't think I '11 drink anything, thank you." 

"Oh, go on! Bring 'er a drop of brandy." 

She was relieved for the moment that Irene and the 
third woman seemed to ignore her. They started a con- 
versation between themselves, about some one called 
"Lily," who had not been seen lately. When the drink 
was brought, Irene suddenly said: 

" 'Ere! 'Ave you seen Uncle Grubhofer?" 

Olga said: 

"No." 

Irene gave forth a hard metallic laugh and said : 

"Lord, you must go and see 'im. Only don't go if 
you 've got a split lip — 'e '11 make you die!" 

She laughed again wildly and tempestuously, as 
though the vision of Uncle Grubhofer in his present 
state were an object of mirth even to the damned. 

"What is it?" asked Olga. "What is he like?" 



THE DRONE OF LONDON 243 

Irene undid a small reticule she was carrying, and 
took out an envelope and wrote a name and address on 
it; then she said: 

"You go and see him. Oh, my Gawd, it 's too funny! 
'E '11 make you die!" and then she added, as though the 
priceless jest might not have penetrated, "Only don't 
go if you 've got a split lip." 

An electric music-box started in the next room, and 
they had to raise their voices. Olga drank some of the 
brandy. She felt in need of it. It burnt her throat, 
but its fumes produced in her an elevated sense of her 
position. She wanted to talk to Irene, to try and find 
if there were anything left underneath, any glimmer 
of that intimacy they had shared on that last night they 
had spent together in the cottage in Surrey, when she 
had given her the eleven pounds, and Irene had said, 
"You didn't ought to have done it. I thought you 
were somehow — different — " Something real and last- 
ing between them. But it had all vanished, everything, 
even the memory of it was dim. But what cruel jest 
of fate was this that had given her certain aspirations, 
had given her talent and understanding, had led her 
into smooth and sunlit spaces, and at the same time had 
crushed the soul of her sister? 

Did she deserve one fate and her sister another? 
Were they not children of the same parents? "Was Irene 
responsible for her own weaknesses and defections? 
The organ in the next room was grinding out a gay 
Italian love-song with a lugubrious rhythm, occasionally 
broken by a scrunching, grinding noise, as though the 
pain of expressing these transcendent joys in this at- 
mosphere were almost too much for it. The third 



244 OLGA BARDEL 

woman had had several glasses of rum and milk, and she 
showed a disposition to be maudlin and confidential. 

"Why don't you drink up your brandy, dear, and 
'ave another?" she said to Olga, and then added, "Oh, 
Gawd! I s'pose you don't need it, do you? I never 
needed it at one time." Then she looked at her face, 
and said, "You 're a pretty thing, strike me blind if 
you 're not ! I love to 'ear this music, love it and 'ate 
it at the same time. Do you know what I mean? 
. . . 'Ere, do you know why I come to this? 
Because I 'm too fond of it — you know, everything. 
That 's what I mean — too fond of everything. 'Ere. 
I 'ad a little boy, pretty as a flower, 'e was. While I 
'ad 'im I run as straight as a die. . . . D'you know 
what 'appened? 'E was five years old. We was living 
in Willesden. My 'usband was a drunken swine. I 
went out one morning into Padds Lane — d'you know 
it? Suddenly I sees my little boy on the other side of 
the road, see? I calls out to 'im, 'Charlie!' I said. 
. . . And even now I can 'ear 'is voice. 'E says, 
' 'Ullo, Mummy!' 'e says, and dashes across the road. 
Christ ! 'E dashes clean into a van ! I sees 'im crushed 
right in front of my eyes, in a flash! Oh, Gawd! do 
you hear ? I 'd called 'im ! I 'd called 'im ! D ' you 
understand? . . . ' 'Ullo, Mummy!' 'e says, and runs 
to me into the van ! ' ' 

The third woman was trembling, and shaking her rum 
and milk round in her glass; her eyes were fixed in a 
hard, terrified stare. Almost as though some one had 
struck her, Olga heard Irene's voice, saying: 

"Oh, chuck it, Florrie! Don't make a fool of yer- 
self." 



THE DRONE OF LONDON 245 

The third woman did not heed this remark. She 
drained her glass and continued : 

"When I got 'ome that evenin', and I told my 
'usband, 'e says, 'Oh!' just like that. 'Oh!' 'E 'd 
been drinkin' at the time. If 'e 'ad n't, I think I 'd 
'ave killed 'im. As it was, I just slogged 'im in the face, 
cut 'is eye open, and knocked 'im out, and then I walked 
out of the 'ouse and never went back." 

"Oh la, la la la! 
The gay Posada!" 

With fitful starts and jerks the organ was endeavoring 
to recall to Olga memories of her honeymoon. It was 
the night of a serenata. She and Harry were lying 
huddled together in a gondola, clasped in each other's 
arms. The dim profile of the Santa Maria della Salute 
was silhouetted against the sky. Overhead the stars 
flashed their wireless glitter of sympathetic understand- 
ing, as they had to Troilus and Cressida in immemorial 
times. Troy had droned, as London droned, and Troy 
was no more. Perhaps a day would come when the 
whole drone of all the cities living and dead would be 
expressed in one note. Wliat was it? An A? It 
could be divided and subdivided! Was all life dom- 
inated by this . unanswerable phrase — the Will-to-live ? 
She realized that it was an infinitesimal expression of 
that note, the words he breathed in her ear — "Darling, 
darling, darling, my darling!" Had he said anything 
else? She could not remember. It was his expression, 
the world's expression of the desire of propagation. 
The Will-to-Perpetuate. . . . 

The third woman was talking again. She liked this 



246 OLGA BARDEL 

woman, with her horrible and human story. Why 
had n 't Irene anything to say like that ? "Why did she 
sit there with that ghastly slit of a mouth of hers, and 
grin, and grin, and grin? and when the third woman 
said something lovable and understandable, why did 
Irene interrupt it with her raucous voice: "Oh, chuck 
it, Florrie ! " ? The third woman was worth a thousand 
of Irene. She was not yet dead. She had something 
in her, some spark of the divine efflatus, that could not 
be subdued, something of that quality that Olga was 
struggling to preserve in herself and that she had sworn 
to fight for in her son. She drank some more of the 
brandy, and then, turning suddenly to Irene, she said: 

"Do you remember that night down in that cottage 
in Surrey? The night I brought you the eleven 
sovereigns ? ' ' 

She could see by her face that Irene had honestly 
forgotten it. She drank some more of the port wine 
that was in front of her. Then she said, after a pause : 

' ' Oh, my Gawd ! yus, I remember. I can almost hear 
the thud of the old devil's footsteps as he went across 
the 'ill, can't you?" She took a cigarette out of a case 
and lighted it. The music from the organ increased in 
volume. Suddenly she turned, and said: 

"Why, yes, it was you what give me that money, 
was n 't it ? D ' you know what I did ? I went off that 
same morning. I went to London." 

She threw her head forward, and laughed hysterically. 
She grasped the sleeve of the waiter who was passing, 
and said: 

"Tommy, bring me some more of this bloody poison, 
darling." Then she grinned at Olga and said: 



THE DRONE OF LONDON 247 

"It was your eleven quid what give me the taste of 
this muck. I wasn't in no mood to be sentimental. 
There was a soldier I remember, I met him in the Eus- 
ton Road. ..." Her eyes suddenly blazed with anger 
because a passer-by had brushed against her. She 
turned irritably on her sister and said : 

"You 've always managed for yourself all right, 
'aven't yer? Who 's keeping yer now?" 

An instinctive desire came to Olga to say, "I 'm being 
kept by a man at Hampstead," but she restrained her- 
self, and the third woman chimed in : 

"You 're making a fool of yourself now, Chadsworth. 
What business is it of yours whose keep she is?" 

But Olga leaned forward, and whispered to her sister : 

"Irene, is that true? Was it the money I — took that 
first gave you a taste for — this sort of life?" 

"The money you — what?" sniggered Irene. "The 
money you pinched, you mean, out of that lady's writ- 
ing-table. Why, you told me of it. Oh, go on! what 
does it matter? You 're no better or worse than the 
rest of us. William, I ordered a port about an hour 
ago! For God's sake buck up with it, darling." 

Other people were coming into the room. It seemed 
to get noisier and stuffier. Irene was saying, "If you 
want to go and see anything really amusing, you go and 
see Uncle Grubhofer!" 

The third woman started talking about the disappear- 
ance of "Lily" again, and the feeling of faintness once 
more began to creep over Olga. She stood up and said 
she must go. It occurred to her afterwards that even 
at that moment it was remarkable that her departure 
seemed to affect the third woman more than it did Irene. 



248 OLGA BARDEIi 

She felt attracted by this wayward, primitive creature; 
but Irene sat there grinning, remorseless, and expres- 
sionless. Olga knew that as far as she was concerned 
Irene was dead to her. Ah ! if she had only given one 
flicker of understanding, some little inflection of the 
voice that showed that she remembered, that she realized, 
that she had any human tie; even if she had only lis- 
tened to the third woman's story with a gleam of sym- 
pathy, instead of crashing upon it with that cruel, 
''Don't make a fool of yourself," Or was it that under 
the grinning mask of Irene's lay the greatest horror of 
all, the dread of her own self-pity, if the floodgates of 
human feeling were ever loosened in her? Was it pos- 
sible to destroy — everything? . . . 

It was a quarter to eight when she arrived home. 
The maid who let her in said that the master was back, 
and had brought two gentlemen home to dinner. They 
were in the drawing-room. She went up-stairs and 
changed her frock. When she had removed her bodice, 
she suddenly looked at her shoulders and arms in a 
mirror. The vision seemed to suspend her power of 
action. She gazed at herself for some moments in the 
half-light and muttered: 

''Oh, God! is it possible?" 

Then rapidly throwing a dressing-gown round her, 
she went into another room where the child was sleep- 
ing. The nurse had left him. He was lying curled up 
with one of his tiny arms hanging free. Her bosom 
heaved wildly as she held her face close to his, as though 
drawing strength from the smell of his warm firm flesh. 
She kissed the down on his head again and again, and 
then returned and finished her dressing. 



THE DRONE OF LONDON 249 

When she entered the drawing-room, her husband was 
just walking toward the door. He said in his calm 
suave voice: 

"Hullo, dear, you are late. I was just coming to look 
for you. You know Boder, don't you? This is Mr, 
Stave," 

A large, red-faced man, with curly hair and a tor- 
toise-shell monocle in his right eye, came forward with 
rather a fierce expression, and said: 

"Charmed to meet you, dear Mrs. Streatham." 

She knew him by sight. He was the editor of a 
monthly review. A gong was going outside and she 
took the large man's arm, and they all passed through 
to the dining-room. 

"It 's been a nice day," he remarked. 

"Yes," she said; "it has — very nice. I 've been out, 
I 've been listening to the drone of London." 

"Eh?" said the editor. "The drone of London! 
Oh ! fancy that ! That 's very interestin '. We 've been 
playing golf. Your husband is uncommonly good on 
the green." 



CHAPTER V 

AMBITION 

HARRY'S mother and eldest sister had just 
driven away, after one of their periodical 
visits, and as usual had left the nerves of 
Harry 's wife all on edge. She stood by the French win- 
dow looking on to the lawn, and her husband was glancing 
at a magazine and smoking. There had been a certain 
amount of criticism with regard to minor details of the 
child's bringing up, and one remark of the elder Mrs. 
Streatham's had rankled through her mind. "Of 
course, my dear, you can hardly be expected to have 
everything entirely satisfactory with your first." 
First! She looked at her husband, and it suddenly 
occurred to her that his face had filled out. It was 
rather too sleek and comfortable for the face of a god. 
She had a sudden vision of her life to come. This was 
her first child. There would be more, and perhaps 
more. She would be the eternal matron in the Hamp- 
stead drawing-room. She noticed the clean white panel- 
ing, and the satin-wood furniture, and the neat orderli- 
ness of the room with its dark-green hangings and the 
large silver tray whereon the things from tea still 
reposed, reminding her of her function as a hostess. 
There would be more of this, years and years of it, 
dispensing tea, bringing up children in the correct way, 

250 



AMBITION 251 

keeping things orderly, keeping orderly herself, listening 
to the refined talk of her dinner table, being "the mis- 
tress" of the servants and the master. Sometimes when 
the guests were well fed, and they were in the mood for 
it, she would be asked to play the piano to them. And 
then she could almost hear the euphuistie tones of their 
voices : 

"Oh, dear Mrs. Streatham, how perfectly fascinating! 
is that Scriabine? I adore Russian music — so passion- 
ate! so elusive!" 

She suddenly said: 

"Harry!" 

He looked up at her from the magazine. For the 
fraction of a second she thought she detected an expres- 
sion of furtive suspicion on his face. She was conscious 
that ever since that night in Paris when Karl had paid 
his visit, there had come between them a certain some- 
thing she could hardly divine. There had never been 
any quarrel, and nothing more had ever been said about 
Karl. She knew very definitely that Mrs. Streatham 
and the sisters held the view that Harry had married 
"out of his class." Was it some unexpressed feeling 
of this sort that was occasionally reflected in his face 
when he looked up at her like that? She went over to 
the settee, and put her arms round his neck from behind, 
and rested her cheek against the top of his head, and 
said: 

"Harry, we mustn't stagnate, must we?" 

She felt him laughing in an uncomfortable way as 
he replied : 

"Stagnate! What on earth do you mean, darling?" 

"I mean," she answered, "that we must always bo 



252 OLGA BARDEL 

doing things, going on. Do you know what I mean, 
dear? We mustn't get — satisfied, must we?" 

He laughed again, and said: 

' ' Good Heavens ! Do you want to move into a bigger 
house ? ' ' 

She rested her cheek against his. 

"No, no," she said. "You know quite well I don't 
mean that. I should be contented with two rooms any- 
where. It 's ourselves I mean. I sometimes think we 
do want to move into a bigger house in a sense. You 
haven't been working very hard lately, have you, 
Harry?" 

"My dear girl," he answered, "what are you talking 
about? One can't compose every day from nine to six, 
like a clerk, can one?" 

"No," she said; "but it 's not only that. But there 
comes a time — Levitch used to say to me that one must 
always be able to look at life like a child; you know — 
keep on re-creating, thinking over again, keeping one- 
self susceptible to impressions. After a time one loses 
that faculty if one is not careful. One becomes 
'atrophied' — is that the word?" 

"Do you feel," said Streatham, "that you don't get 
sufficient intellectual stimulus here?" 

' ' Heavens ! yes — too much of it, of a kind. But it 's 
not that. I wish I could make you understand more 
clearly what I mean. I 'm so bad at expressing myself. 
I want to play more — I want to get on. But it 's not 
only that, I think. It 's when one gets satisfied, one — 
goes down the sink, as it were. I 'm sure of that ; more 
sure of that than anything." 

Harry shook himself free and stood up. 



AMBITION 253 

"I 'm afraid, my dear," he said, "that your meta- 
physics are a little obscure. I really don't know what 
you want, except that you apparently want us to be both 
dissatisfied. Good Lord ! it 's a rotten world. I sup- 
pose we all are dissatisfied at heart. But the whole idea 
of philosophy is to combat this. What is 'to be phil- 
osophic' if it isn't to be resigned to the ugliness and 
silliness of things?" 

"But by being dissatisfied," she protested, "I don't 
mean cynical — like that — that is being dissatisfied with 
other people. I mean being dissatisfied with oneself — 
searching inside oneself for — finer things. I don 't think 
the world is rotten. I think it 's very beautiful. I find 
amongst all sorts of people, vile and vicious people some 
of them, qualities that I envy. They 're not rotten. 
There 's nothing rotten except — being satisfied." 

And then the god performed a little act that was never 
forgotten, and which brought the whole edifice of his 
godhead crashing to the earth. lie stretched himself 
and examined the backs of his long white hands. For 
the moment he appeared to be going to reply, then he 
turned his hands over, and made a little noise that can 
only be expressed — 

" 'M — 'm, " the second " 'm " being a tone higher than 
the first. It was a little action, but it distinctly con- 
veyed this meaning: 

"What on earth is the good of me talking to a child 
like you? I 've discussed all these elementary things 
years ago — when I was at Gueldstone's house at Win- 
chester. I 've discussed them and gone beyond them. 
It would simply bore me to death to talk philosophy with 
you. I 've read Plato, and Aristotle, and every one up 



254 OLGA BARBEL 

to Nietszche and Bergson. And you 've read— nothing. 
You know nothing. I feed you, and clothe you, and give 
you every comfort, and your business is to love me, and 
look after my children. If you knew a little more — 
well and good, but as you don't, you can't possibly ex- 
pect me to teach you." 

She did not say anything more after that, but her 
lips were a shade paler as she moved towards the door. 
There she stopped, and looked back at him, but his eyes 
were concentrated on the delicate modeling of his finger- 
tips, and she went out. 

From that day she started to build a world within a 
world. She worked hard at her piano, and went down 
to see her agent. Concert Director Whitbread was very 
desirous that she should give more recitals, and sug- 
gested a scheme of spending a large sum of money that 
savored of M. Pensiver. 

"Of course, Miss Bardel, you 've lost ground," he said. 
"It's always bad to have to cancel engagements, and 
the public soon forgets. I should suggest giving three 
recitals and engaging the London Imperial Orchestra 
for an orchestral concert. I think they would guarantee 
in exchange to engage you for one of their series next 
season." 

He said that with two hundred pounds he thought he 
could establish her once again and make her a popular 
favorite. She reported the matter to Harry, and that 
gentleman said: 

"Of course, darling, it would be awfully jolly to do 
it. I wish we could." 

But then it appeared that there were difficulties. 
The Streathams, it seemed, had been living above their 



AMBITION 255 

income even before the child was born, and that event, 
with its concomitant demands from doctors, specialists, 
and nurses, had placed poor Harry in a very difficult 
financial position. It occurred to her to suggest drastic 
reforms in the home. To move to a smaller house, to 
reduce the number of servants, and to live more simply, 
but she knew that these changes would make her husband 
very unhappy. She thought of asking Mrs. Fittleworth 
to help her, but this she knew would be a stigma upon 
his family pride, an indignity he would never agree to. 
She gave up the idea of playing in public for the time, 
and contented herself with working for the joy in the 
thing itself. 

Sometimes she would go down and visit Mr. Casewell, 
and play to him and talk "shop," and occasionally she 
went alone to Sir Philip Ballater's. He had a splendid 
music-room, which he had suggested that she should use 
at any time. If she wanted to work seriously, without 
interruption of any sort, she found that that was the 
best thing to do. In addition, the house had a curiously 
steadying effect on her. It was so silent and passion- 
less. Sometimes Sir Philip himself would come and 
listen to her, and somehow she did not mind him being 
there. He seemed to reflect a placid orientation of the 
finely wrought earthenware, something toned by cen- 
turies of cultivated eclecticism, almost impersonal and 
universal. 

Once or twice she went to see John Braille, and she 
was amazed to discover a fact conceraing him. He had 
always shown a remarkable insight and a sympathetic 
knowledge of music, but to her surprise she found that 
he had been to every recital she had given in London, 



256 OLGA BARDEL 

and he seemed to remember nearly everything she had 
played. She found a curious satisfaction in telling him 
little things about herself, and it was he more than 
any one who encouraged her to work. He had also that 
quality that stimulated the mind. He was tremendously 
virile, and she came away from her visits to him feeling 
buoyant and ambitious. 

She had often thought of Irene's suggestion that she 
should go and see Uncle Grubhofer, but had so far been 
afraid. There was something about Irene's remark, 
"Don't go if you 've got a split lip; it will make you 
die!" that caused Olga to shiver. She could not bring 
herself to make this visit. She had one day thought of 
asking Harry to accompany her, but she knew that if it 
were in any way unpleasant, the breach between them 
would become wider. Moreover, Karl had turned up 
again with another pathetic story. The man with whom 
he was in partnership had robbed him and disappeared. 
Karl was starving in London. There was another very 
painful evening, Karl having pushed his way in while 
Harry's sisters were there, and he seemed inclined to 
make a scene. He was eventually got rid of with four 
pounds, which was all the available cash in the house. 
But the affair had had unpleasant consequences. 
Harry's family had taken the matter up, and were 
anxious to put the police on Karl's track. They thought 
it was "too bad that poor dear Harry should be troubled 
in this way." Olga had objected to the procedure, and 
an ice-cold enmity immediately sprang up between her 
and the family, an enmity that nothing would be ever 
likely to assuage. 

From the day when she had spoken to Harry about 



AMBITION 257 

being "satisfied," he seemed to keep a little more aloof 
from her, but she observed that he set to work in a 
rather furtive manner upon a "tone poem" that he had 
started the previous winter. He was always secretive 
about his compositions. He only discussed them and 
played them to Eric Shaughan and one or two other 
protagonists of a very advanced school. They spoke in 
terms of pitying contempt for all other schools. She 
knew that they had a mild admiration for "Wagner and 
found certain old-fashioned virtues in Beethoven, but 
she had heard Harry say that "Schumann bored him 
to tears"; neither did they take any great interest in 
the work of the other older composers. They discussed 
Strauss and other modern composers, and even then 
without enthusiasm. ^Moreover, they all held, she knew, 
a contempt for what they called merely "performance." 
She was fully aware that it did not really interest Harry 
to hear her play. He was onlj'' interested in what she 
played, and when it happened to be something in his 
own rather neurotic line. 

It was therefore an unfortunate fact that the thing 
which should have been their greatest bond of sympathy 
— music — was that which tended to alienate them. 

One afternoon she was playing a chorale of Cesar 
Franck. It was a thing she had been working at for 
some time. She was conscious that she was playing it 
remarkably well. She got the full deep organ quality 
that the piece demanded. She listened for it coming 
and heard it die away against the four walls of the room. 

A sudden feeling of depression came to her. What 
was the good of playing like that to four walls? "Would 
she never again feel the electric response of a listening 



258 OLGA BARDEL 

crowd? Were these four walls to be the tomb of her 
ambitions? She wanted so much to give all that she 
felt with regard to this chorale to some one who would 
want to receive it, but the music died away against 
bricks and furniture. She got up from the piano and 
went to the window. It was a gray day and the wind 
was turning the leaves of the mulberry-tree. She 
thought she would go over to Sir Philip Ballater's and 
practise there. And then it occurred to her that even 
there the sound would only die away. It is true it 
would go further, and percolate among the limbo of 
centuries; it might even pass through Sir Philip him- 
self, but it would eventually die against marble and 
inanimate things. And then suddenly she thought of 
John Braille. . . . 

The large leaves of the mulberry-tree were slowly 
turning and flapping each other and occasionally reveal- 
ing the unripe fruit. She would like to convey those 
large organ tones to John Braille. They would flood 
his soul and something would spring to life. She could 
almost see the sensitive, quivering nostril, the strong fine 
lines of the face, and the keen sympathetic eyes. He 
would understand. There would be little need to speak. 
He was so sure, so — wonderfully in tune. 

The day was drawing in. He would be finishing his 
work now. It was almost too dark to paint already. 
She would go and see him. She went up-stairs and put 
on her hat, and got the maid to telephone for a cab. 

In twenty minutes' time she was at the door of his 
studio near Portland Place. "When she entered the 
studio, she saw him in the half-light. He had on a very 
painty overall, and he was vigorously washing out some 



AMBITION 250 

brushes at a sink. He looked up, and she thought he 
started, like one awakened from a dream. He smiled 
a welcome to her and just murmured "Ah!" 

He wiped his hands on a towel. Then he pulled a 
chair up to the hearth, where a log fire was burning, 
and turned on an electric light standard on an oak table 
by the wall. 

"Won't you sit down?" he said. He spoke as though 
he had expected her. On an easel in the middle of the 
studio was the freshly painted head of an elderly woman. 
He followed her eye fixed upon it. 

"This is Lady Schuck," he said, "wife of the dealer! 
Please don't let it worry you. I 'm afraid it 's a shock- 
ing pot-boiler." 

"It 's fine," she answered. "I envy you. Tell me, 
Mr. Braille, is it wicked to be ambitious?" 

"I think it 's wicked not to be," he laughed. 

"I 'm tired of playing to four walls," she said. "I 
don't think I 'm greedily ambitious. I don't want to 
be an infant prodigy again. But I want what I c^ do 
to get through to some one. Do you know what I 
mean?" 

Braille looked at her with one of his keen glances. 
Then he drew up a stool and sat opposite her by the 
fireplace. 

"Of course," he said, "you must play. It 's absurd. 
All art is a telepathic business ; it 's just what we convey 
to others. One has to 'get through, ' as you say. I could 
certainly not paint a stroke if I thought that no one would 
ever see what I did." 

" I 'm glad you think that, ' ' she said. 

"Let 's think what it really is," continued Braille 



260 OLGA BARDEL 

meditatively. "I suppose it 's a development of our 
primal love instinct. I walk along a country lane and I 
see a rick against a ploughed field, and I think to myself, 
'By Jove, that 's jolly ! ' I hug the vision for some time, 
but it 's not enough. I think, 'By Jove, old Tony 
Saunders would like that.' I am filled with a desire to 
remind Tony Saunders how jolly a rick looks against a 
ploughed field, to share my vision with him. But not 
only Tony Saunders ; there 's Jimmy Carthill — he 'd like 
it too — and a lot of other people. I am immediately ob- 
sessed with a crazy passion to get my vision down, to 
make a permanent thing of it, so that I may give it to 
others. Art is essentially a question of 'giving' — one 
must give all the time. It is the same with you. Some 
passage of Beethoven fills you with an uncontrollable 
desire to share the feeling it produces on you with others, 
to fill the world with it. To practise always within 
four walls, with no hope of 'getting through,' would 
send any one mad. It would be spiritual starvation. 
Too horrible to think of," 

"I think that too," said Olga eagerly. "It 's so nice 
of you to talk like this." 

Braille laughed, and they looked at each other for 
some moments. Suddenly he said : 

"Play me something now." 

She smiled at him, although her eyes were moist. 

"Would you really like it?" she asked. 

He got up quickly and walked to the grand piano in 
the corner of the studio, and opened the lid. Then he 
came back, and took her cloak from her, and said in a 
low voice: 



AMBITION 261 

"You know I should love it." 

She took oft' her gloves and sighed. Then, going to 
the piano, she sat down, and played the ehorale of Cesar 
F'ranck. When she had finished she looked at him out 
of the corners of her eyes. He was standing very 
straight on the hearth-rug and gazing at the ground. 
There was something knightly about his pose, as though 
he were holding himself four-square against the tumult 
of a great remorse. She rose from the piano, and for 
some reason they could not speak to each other. It was 
as though something had happened of which they were 
afraid to speak. She came and stood by the fire, and 
rested her toes on the steel fender. At last she said: 

"Mr. Braille, I have an old uncle I want to visit. I 
have not seen him for years. I 'm afraid he is a ter- 
rible old man, and he may be ill — I don't know. But 
honestly I am afraid to go by myself, and I do not think 
Plarry would care to go with me. I wonder whether 
you would accompany me one day ? ' ' 

Braille passed one hand over his brow, and then said : 

' ' Of course. Where does he live 1 ' ' 

She took the envelope that Irene had written on, out 
of her bag. It was an address in Netting Hill. She 
came very close to him and showed him the envelope. 
He gripped it firmly and took it to the light. 

' ' Notting Hill ! " he said. ' ' Why not go now ? ' ' 

It was nearly six o'clock, and Olga had to be back for 
dinner at eight. They decided that it would be just 
possible, by taking cabs each way. As they drove along 
she told him all about this Uncle Grubhofer in little 
jerky sentences, and also about the rest of her family. 



262 OLGA BAEDEL 

The cab drew up at a buff brick house that overlooked 
a canal. It was almost dark. A young hollow-cheeked 
woman opened the door, and peered at them. 

''Could I see Mr. Grubhofer?" asked Olga faintly. 

The woman stared at them vacantly, then she went to 
the foot of the staircase, and called out : 

"Mrs. Mahoney!" 

There was no answer, so she clattered up into the dark- 
ness, and left them at the door watching the flickering 
gas-jet, that threatened to be blown right out, and con- 
scious of the comfort of each other's presence. They 
heard voices up-stairs, and then the woman returned and 
said: 

"What might ye be wanting with Mr, Grubhofer at 
all?" 

Olga answered: 

"I am his niece, Olga Bardel. I would like to see 
him." 

The woman stared at her again, and then once more 
mounted the stairs. There was more talking, and then 
the voice called down: 

* * Will you be coming up here then ? ' ' 

They entered and Braille closed the front door. Olga 
went first, but he kept close behind. At the top of the 
landing, on the right, was a room lighted by a candle. 
There were two women there, and the one who had let 
them in came out and passed by them down the stairs. 
The other was an old woman with short gray hair, and 
an aquiline face, with dark eyes like a bird's. She was 
sitting on a rocking-chair by a meager grate, and she 
did not attempt to rise. She called out in a shrill voice : 

"And who is this ye '11 be bringing with ye? Olga 



AMBITION 263 

Bardel '11 visit y' old uncle, is it? And he dying and 
alone in 's old days. ' ' 

Olga did not know who the old woman was, but she 
said: 

* ' Dying ! Is it — really so — so bad as that ? May I see 
him?" 

"Ay," said the old woman. "Come and feast your 
eyes on the lovely sight — come and see the poor boy pass- 
ing out to beyond. Who would be helping him now but 
Ellen jNIahoney?" She stood up, and held the candle 
close to Olga 's face, and said : 

"Ay, the spit and image ye be of that same troll. Ye 
have the same cow's eyes 'ud lure me boy from me in 
the old days and then leave him for that spavined spawn 
of Israel — Nathan Bardel — lure him and break him, 
would ye ? " 

She suddenly raised her voice, and led the way 
through a folding-door into another room. 

"He 's lying here now, the pretty baby. Come and 
see the pretty sight, Olga Bardel — " 

The three of them passed through the door. The inner 
room was larger, and was lighted by five large candles, 
that illumined a bed of massive proportions. On the 
pillow was the dark masque of a head, with the eyes 
opened watching them. Olga gasped, and for some rea- 
son remembered one of the last occasions she had seen 
Uncle Grubhofer very distinctly. It was when he was 
greedily eating off a plate in a palatial hotel in the Mid- 
lands. It seemed — not very long ago. How strange it 
was ! How wonderfully serene and quiet he looked — al- 
most majestic. His cheeks were hollow, and his gray 
hair and beard seemed darker, and lent to his face a 



264 OLGA BAEDEt 

patriarchal dignity. All the passion, and malice, and 
greed had passed out of him. He lay there watching 
and waiting, in an impenetrable repose. Something told 
her that he would never speak again, never move; he 
would lie there till the time came when he would glide 
away into the shadows. She suddenly thought with a 
shiver of Irene's remark, "He '11 make you die! Don't 
go if you Ve got a split lip ! " Was it possible to be more 
inhuman than that ? Was every shred of hope in Irene 
crushed? or was this the last cynical cry of a soul that 
was afraid of itself? 

She approached the bed, and touched one of the arms 
hanging straight and stiff outside the quilt. She mur- 
mured quietly: 

**Uncle!" 

The unseeing eyes blinked at her, and she was not ter- 
rified. It seemed that all terror was dead, all remorse, 
everything vile. Yet in the background there raged the 
dull reverberation of a spent storm. The voice of the 
old woman was saying, "Ay, you may call the pretty one. 
Call till your crow's throat rusts. He '11 never come 
back to ye. And the Blessed Saints '11 know it was Ellen 
Mahoney herself who nursed him when he was called, 
not the dark troll of the city of sin. Ay! and himself 
knows it, and his lips have prayed to the Mother of God 
of her." 

Who was this old w^oman? What strange romance 
of the past was here being shouted across the years ? She 
looked at John Braille, and she believed that in the sud- 
den glance that they exchanged they shared a common 
vision. It was of her mother, "the dark troll of the city 
of sin." 



AMBITION 265 

What was she like, this mother of hers? In appear- 
ance — according to the old woman — the "spit and im- 
age" of Olga herself. What loves and passions had 
swayed her life ? What was he to her, this figure dying 
on the bed? Was it possible that at one time he was 
young, and comely, and strong ? Perhaps her lover ? She 
remembered having seen in a drawer at Canning Town a 
faded photograph of Uncle Grubhofer, which Irene said 
was taken when he was forty. He wore a curious stock 
and peg-top trousers, and his face was firmer and fuller 
than it became in later years. He had Dundreary 
whiskers and there was the suggestion that he was by 
no means dissatisfied with his appearance, and that he 
lavished considerable thought upon it. Something must 
have happened that suddenly loosened all his moral fiber, 
made him desperate of himself, the plaything of some 
wilful passion. Was he really her uncle ? She thought 
of her father, Nathan Bardel, with his mild, appealing 
eyes. She remembered how bitterly Uncle Grubhofer 
always spoke of him, bitterly and vindictively, as 
though the hate of him colored all his actions. As she 
looked back on those days it appeared as though Uncle 
Grubhofer pursued a deliberate policy of spite and hatred 
upon the children, as though he rejoiced at every evi- 
dence of vileness on their part, and laid cunning traps to 
keep them so, as though he were not merely satisfied 
with the wretchedness of their bodies, but as though he 
wanted to destroy their souls. 

These thoughts flashed through Olga's mind, prompted 
by the ravings of the old woman with the candle. 

Ah, God ! what was this love that outlived all the 
stress of these tumultuous passions ? The old woman too 



266 OLGA BARDEIi 

had felt the glow of youth ; doubtless, in gay rooms she 
too had danced, with "dark carnations in her hair," her 
blood had stirred to the rhythm of the strings. She 
too had known the pangs of love, of jealousy, despair. 
They had left her worn, battered, like the husk of some 
dim passion. What was it that made her stand there, 
holding the candle like a fiery star above her, content 
that in the end, she — and she alone — found beauty in 
the ravages of death, content that it was she alone who 
had drawn from those lips the prayer "to the Mother 
of God of her"? 

How fierce she looked! the animate eyes belying the 
tremulo of the quavering voice. 

She could not understand a lot of what the old woman 
said, but she heard for the first time that it was her 
birth that caused her mother's death. Her mother, it 
seemed, was a faithless, irresponsible hussy who mixed in 
vile company, danced, sang, drank, and knew no mas- 
ter. She left behind her a trail of sorrow, sin, and 
broken hearts. It appeared that she had lured Uncle 
Grubhofer from the arms of his bride-elect, lured him 
away, destroyed him, and left him. 

Olga could not stand to hear this story, and she could 
not believe it. She stood there dazed, and trying not to 
listen to the old woman. She was conscious after a time 
that the strong hands of John Braille were supporting 
her arm, and he was leading her downstairs. He had 
said or done something to quieten the old woman, for 
they passed down the stairs in silence, and at the door 
the younger woman curtsied and called John Braille 
"Your honor." 

The cab was waiting, and when they entered it she was 



AMBITION 267 

tremendously alive to the comforting virility of his con- 
tact. She felt very shaken by the experience, and she 
still clung to his arm. She kept feasting her eyes on the 
clean-cut sanity of his face, and drawing strength from 
it. 

Was it possible that her mother was really like that? 
and if so, what of herself? She suddenly thought of 
Harry, What would he think if he knew? How would 
he have behaved if he had been there ? 

"I 'm afraid you '11 be thundering late for your din- 
ner," said Braille's clear voice. 

She sighed and gave a little gasp of relief. This sud- 
den appeal to material, every-day things steadied her. 
She tried to laugh, and said : 

"Yes, I shall have to invent some excuse." And 
then she added: 

"I don't think Harry likes me — visiting my rela- 
tions, ' ' 

"I don't think your Uncle Grubhofer is any more a 
relation than I am," answered Braille, and he looked 
straight out of the cab, 

" Ah ! You think that too, do you ? ' ' They exchanged 
glances, and the cab turned the corner by the Park, 
Then she said : 

"The last time I was late I said I had been listening 
to 'the drone of London,' " 

She looked at him quizzically, and they both laughed, 
as though they had both found a sudden piquant delight 
in the adventure, 

"I know," said Braille at last, "Wliy not say that 
you have been sitting for your portrait to the famous 
portrait painter — John Braille?" 



268 OLGA BAEDEL 

"It would certainly be a very picturesque lie," she 
answered. 

"As a matter of fact, it would be the truth," he said. 

They both pondered over this statement. As the cab 
was passing along Oxford Street he suddenly said : 

"I wanted to ask you, Mrs. Streatham, since the matter 
has come up. Will you sit for me ? I would like to do 
a full-length of you, but if it would bore you too much, 
will you let me do a head ? ' ' 

The cab spun along down Portland Place, and she did 
not answer. He thought for a moment she had not 
heard. Her brow contracted, and her eyes looked down 
at her muff. She seemed to breathe rather rapidly. It 
was not till they got to the outer circle of Regent 's Park, 
and the streets were silent and deserted, that she said 
in a low voice : 

"Yes, whenever you like." 

She said this breathlessly, as though she had uttered 
some irrevocable edict, the significance of which she was 
a little uncertain how to determine. 



CHAPTER VI 

RETROSPECTION 

TTIE sun streamed through the long French win- 
dows, and gave to the chintz coverings of the 
drawing-room an almost garish appearance. 
It was too brilliant a day to allow any furniture, even 
rare antique, to have a semblance of appropriateness. It 
searched it out in the remotest corners of the room, and 
seemed to say : 

"After all, you 're only sticks and stuffs. I made you, 
in my good time, many thousand years ago, in woods 
and forests, and on the backs of wild beasts. How ri- 
diculous to deck yourself out like this!" 

She went to the window and lowered the sun-blind. 
She was expecting Mollie Fittle worth, who had been 
on a visit to the States, The room looked better, more 
"together," in the modified light. It was indeed a very 
beautiful room, a real Georgian room now, not a modern 
Georgian room, and the furniture was old and costly. 
It was a certain satisfaction to her to know that this 
move into a larger house had been due rather to her than 
to the Streathams. It was, in fact, due to her dear 
friend Urs. Fittleworth, who had died suddenly the year 
that Richard was born, and had left Olga quite a consid- 
erable sum of money, the bulk of which had been spent on 

old furniture and paying debts. This satisfaction was 

269 



270 . OLGA BAKDEL 

modified by searing regrets. As she looked back upon 
these six years she could not resist reflecting on all that 
she might have done. There was a time when the ball was 
at her feet. Everything tended to show that with just 
that little extra fillip she might have been one of the 
world's great musicians. Perhaps it was wicked to have 
wanted this, and yet she could not help it. She felt the 
power surging through her, and the phrase of John 
Braille would often recur, ''spiritual starvation." 

For three years after the marriage she and Harry had 
always been in what were called "financial straits." 
And then the money had come, with all its golden oppor- 
tunities. She recalled the terrible conflict that its com- 
ing caused between her husband and herself. Terrible 
because so suppressed and so unreasonable, just two 
forces silently pulling in opposite directions. She with 
her ambitions, spiritual and evolutionary, yearning to 
help that which required helping, trying to grasp the ele- 
ments of the social equation, and not being able to with 
any satisfaction, seeking to find her own niche within the 
ambit of her social life ; he, cynical and reactionary, con- 
tent to amble round in a circle, with no ambitions other 
than intellectual and social ones, fully satisfied with his 
material gloss, and the pleasant stimulus of mental calis- 
thenics. 

There were days when she had broken her fetters, and 
performed free and desperate actions. But she could 
not resist the call of him, or banish for one instant the 
straining of her heart when she pictured him unhappy. 
lie was such a baby, such a clamorous, spoilt darling. 
When the money had come, she had made a bold plan to 
further both their musical careers, but Harry had never 



RETROSPECTION 271 

finished the concerto that had been so much advertised 
and arranged for, and for herself, at the time when this 
second opportunity came, her other son arrived. Even 
then she had not lost hope, and when well enough again 
she started to work once more. But there were many 
delays : Harry 's insistence on moving into the new house, 
and all the work that this entailed, and then he had not 
been well, and a long holiday in the Pyrenees had fol- 
lowed. When once more they had settled down in Ilamp- 
stead, she knew that for her it would be useless, for the 
time being, to make further arrangements, for four 
months later the third child was bom. Then she was 
very ill, and the little girl had died. 

Those indeed had been terrible days, and she shud- 
dered to look back on them. She sometimes wondered 
whether there was in herself some faculty that banished 
friendship. People seemed to come, to touch some chord 
in her, and vanish. Had one no pennanent hold over 
those fleeting visions ? She remembered that on the day 
of Mrs. Fittleworth 's funeral, for some reason or other, 
she tried to recall the face and voice of little Miss j\Ier- 
son, and she found it difficult. Would the memory of 
Mrs. Fittleworth become as dim? Would all these peo- 
ple she had loved become shadows and pass away? It 
occurred to her that if Harry went away, if she did not 
see him for years and years, he would come back to her 
— a stranger. Irene and Karl and IMontague she felt 
she could never forget in that way. They were more 
than a vision. They held a pitiless grasp over the roots 
of her being, but she had no love for them. She had no 
love for any one except the two boys and the headlong 
helter-skelter of passion that bound her to her husband. 



272 OLGA BAKDEL 

Emma Pittleworth had married a government official 
stationed in Scotland, and Mollie had gone to America 
to stay with relations. But to neither of these girls was 
she tied by any unbreakable bond. She was aware that 
the somewhat restrained quality of this affection was due 
to some defect in herself. She had an affection for them 
that she shared with the rest of humanity. She often 
remembered the remark of the woman whom she met with 
Irene : 

' ' Do you know why I come to this ? Because I 'm too 
fond of it — you know, everything ! ' ' 

Sometimes she felt that quality in herself. She was 
too fond — of everything. Sometimes the angle of a pale 
cheek that passed her in the street would send her quiver- 
ing on her way ; her heart would bleed with sorrow at the 
pinched face of a child. She would want to take them, 
all these people, take them and raise them up. No per- 
sonal affection that she had ever experienced seemed 
greater or more vital than this impersonal love of the 
poor, and the down-trodden, and the wretched. On oc- 
casions when she had been alone there trailed across her 
dreams the vision of some compensating splendor, as 
though the restless anguish of the world could dovetail 
with some sympathetic image within herself and build a 
passion, but it would be a passion that should go crash- 
ing to the stars. 

Perhaps it was some feeling of that sort that made her 
search deeper and deeper within herself, that made her 
turn again fiercely and desperately — like a cat that is 
being robbed of its food — to her only means of subjec- 
tive expression — her music. Perhaps that was why, 
when it was so often talven from her, she raged within 



RETROSPECTION 273 

herself, beating her wings against the confines of this 
social cage. She was being stifled, smothered, crushed 
into a wayward, perverse creature. "Spiritual starva- 
tion!" 

Ah ! why, on this afternoon as she sat there waiting for 
Mollie Fittleworth, with the sun streaming into her 
drawing-room, must this phrase keep recurring to her 
and reviving bitter-sweet memories? Why to-day must 
she think so intently of John Braille ? Why to-day were 
those memories concerning him so vivid ? 

Perhaps it was such a day as this, so brilliant that the 
sun had to be shut out. She was seated on "the throne" 
— as he called it — in his studio. She was dressed in a 
silver-gray frock, and she wore a black picture hat, such 
as was fashionable in that year. She sat there — occa- 
sionally standing, for it was a full-length. He wore a 
black screen on his temples to protect his eyes, and to 
aid the concentration of his gaze. It made him look 
very queer, like a magician. And surely he was some- 
thing of a magician. She could not stand there without 
being aware of the concentrated fury of his gaze — like a 
frenzy it was, something that consumed her, and re- 
vealed her innermost thoughts. They spoke very little 
till the work was finished, when a man would bring in a 
tray of tea-things ; but she could see his eyes and watch 
the nervous, sensitive poising of the hand, and then the 
sudden masterly movement of the brush. He was no 
courtier when she sat to him. He seemed sometimes al- 
most as though he were unconscious of her, as though he 
were merely searching for something inside. He spoke 
at times quite bruskly: "Head a little more tilted!" 
"No, no; this way!" "Your left shoulder, please," as 



274 OLGA BARDEL 

though he were some wild thing obeying some higher 
command. It interested her to notice how he worked, 
and to observe that the action of painting produced in 
him an elevated sense of excitement. His mind was on a 
different plane. It was quite noticeable how, when the 
sitting was over, he would gradually become more nor- 
mal. She would go and stand by him, and they would 
look at the portrait, and discuss it. She was intensely 
ignorant about painting, but it did not seem ridiculous 
for her to say, "Don't you think, Mr. Braille, you have 
made my neck too long?" 

He had taken all her remarks with the same eager 
intentness, and discussed them exhaustively. And then 
the mental process of "cooling down from the picture" 
would take place in him. He would keep darting back 
to it for a momentary glance. It became a sort of rallen- 
tando of movement till he left it altogether for the day. 

Not till then would something of the courtier return 
to him. Then he would wait on her, and move about the 
room with big sweeping movements. During those days 
she worked hard, for John Braille always wanted to 
know what she was working at. 

She had never met any one who seemed so broad and 
big as he, and yet who could be so gentle. He had a way 
of speaking to her like a wistful schoolboy thoughts that 
came spontaneously to him. He would lay them bare 
and look at them, and they would stand side by side and 
examine them, in the same way that they examined the 
picture. In spite of a certain autocracy of bearing, he 
was always the student, susceptible to impressions, and 
carrying with him a sort of reverence for mystical and 
unexplained things. He stood by the prescript of Le- 



RETROSPECTION 275 

vitch to fight for the power to renew himself, to ''think 
all over again." 

How splendid were those days! They stood apart — 
in her life — like gleams of gold that will suddenly flood 
the heavens after a day of rain. How little she realized 
at the time how much they were to be to her, that in 
after years the memory of them would be a sanctuary 
from distressing thoughts ! 

She had seen the tragedy of those days rise, reach its 
climax, and die away, and she heard the curtain fall 
with mathematical precision on its last words. In fact, 
there was something mathematical about the whole thing. 
For she had observed its inception in connection with the 
rallentando mentioned above. She knew that in the mind 
of John Braille, she and the picture were two very dif- 
ferent things. He had the power of putting himself 
outside her personal contact. He expressed her in paint, 
or rather it was his own intense personal vision of her 
that he expressed. He came under the spell of it and 
it possessed him. When the painting was finished, he 
shook this vision off, and returned to her — Olga herself. 
It was as though the spell of her were contending with 
the spell of his personal vision of her. She would have 
been blind if she had not been conscious of this. He 
seemed quite abruptly to lose the power of painting her. 
She felt that intense gaze fading from his subjective view, 
and becoming lost in her. It was terrible, and she did 
not know liow to act. She could see the struggle going 
on under the dark shutter. He gradually lost the naive 
bruskness with which he had originally ordered her to 
"hold her chin up." He became sympathetic, and per., 
sonal, and would keep on saying in a low voice : 



276 OLGA BARDEL 

" I 'm sure you must be tired, Mrs, Streatham. ' ' 

She remembered the afternoon when she went — it was 
nearly the end of the summer, on a glorious day like this 
— and found him sitting deep in thought. He had not 
heard her come in. His face looked white and set, and 
he had jumped up and greeted her. And then he turned 
away. She thought he looked self-conscious, and in a mo- 
ment he spoke, and she could tell that he did not find it 
easy to keep his voice so steady as it sounded. He had 
said: 

"I 'm afraid the portrait is not being a success, Mrs. 
Streatham. I have scraped it down. See ! ' ' 

And there indeed was the pale ghost of two months' 
work scraped to the canvas. She had said : 

"Oh, what a bother I am to paint! Would you like 
to give it a rest, Mr. Braille, and take it up later ? ' ' 

He had seemed very reticent at that, and framed his 
mouth as though he were about to speak, and then had 
stopped. He had walked up and do\\Ti the studio once 
or twice, looking at her almost furtively, and then had 
looked at his depleted canvas. At last he had said quite 
calmly : 

"Yes. That would be the best way. Perhaps — in the 
autumn we can — finish it." 

He had seemed rather frigid and at a loss. He had 
tried to pass off his attitude as she was going, and had 
said : • 

"Please forgive me, Mrs. Streatham. I 'm afraid I 'ra 
rather — run down. I want a change. I feel very cul- 
pable — wasting your time." 

She had struggled to smile, but for the life of her 
she could not say what she wanted to say. She had said : 



RETROSPECTION 277 

"I'm sure it's all my fault. I talked too much." 

But she had not meant to say this. She was not quite 
sure what she wanted to say. Perhaps she had wanted 
to say: 

"Oh, splendid person, please, please, please don't be 
unhappy. I know something worries you. I want to 
help you. It doesn't matter about the picture. I 'm 
only a little thing. If I cause you uneasiness, banish me ! 
banish me forever, only let me always hold the memory 
of you standing there, looking so strong and splendid. 
Whatever happens to me in after years, you will always 
know that the memory of you has made life more pos- 
sible for me." 

But she had not been able to say this, she had only 
been able to smile through her tears and to shake his 
hand. 

And then some months had passed. He had gone to 
the Austrian Tyrol, and she and Harry and the child 
went down to Devonshire. She had but a vague recollec- 
tion of those days except that they all seemed the same, 
and the Streatham family was there, and they all did the 
usual things that one does at the seaside. 

On the return to London she had telegraphed to him 
that she was back, and could continue the sittings, and 
he had replied asking her to come on the morrow. 

He had seemed bronzed and well, and he had given her 
an eager smile of welcome. The old canvas was in its 
place and everything prepared. They resumed their 
silent intercourse, and she felt strangely happy sitting 
there listening to the occasional dropping of a cinder in 
the stove, and the stealthy movements of the brush on 
the canvas. She was watching and listening very in- 



278 OLGA BARDEL 

tently, and once or twice she thought she heard him sigh. 
At the end of twenty minutes he had said: 

' ' Won 't you have a rest, Mrs, Streatham ? ' ' 

She had answered : 

"No; please go on." 

And then she thought he sighed again. He seemed to 
hover restlessly in front of the easel, and in a few min- 
utes he had said : 

"Tell me, what have you been working at?" 

"Alas!" she had answered, "I have been very lazy. 
I have had a complete holiday. We did nothing in Dev- 
onshire. ' ' 

Then, after a pause, he had said: 

' ' By Jove ! you look awfully — well. ' ' 

She had laughed and answered : 

"Yes. I 'm afraid I 've upset all your coloring." 

There was no rallentando of transition from the pic- 
ture phase to the personal phase on that day. He sud- 
denly dropped the picture altogether, and came over and 
talked to her. It was as though something had been 
freed in him. He spoke gaily and boyishly, and insisted 
on her not sitting for long at this first sitting. They 
suddenly became intimate again, and sat facing each 
other, exchanging mental experiences. They talked of 
Bohemia, and the effect of physical conditions on char- 
acter. He spoke of his father — Admiral Braille — of 
whom he had not spoken before. 

"His character was molded by the sea," he had said. 
"Sometimes when I am in doubt how to act, I try and 
visualize my father's eyes. He used to say, 'Man has 
chopped the precepts of his conscience into a thousand 
fragments, but the doctrine of the sea is never wrong.' 



RETROSPECTION 279 

It is a great consolation that, something vast and incor- 
ruptible that may always be gone back to. I have read 
many books, sacred and profane, and they have given 
me many impulses, but they have taught me nothing of 
fundamental value that I could not read in my father's 
eyes." He had seemed volatile and discursive after 
that, and had brought her her parasol and chatelaine 
with an air of mock reverence. It was only just as she 
was going that something happened that shook the foun- 
dations of this engaging edifice of happy communion. 
Her shoe-lace came undone, and she put down her para- 
sol, and went back to the throne. She put her foot up on 
the throne, and stooped and tied it. The action took 
perhaps two minutes, then, as she looked up, she saw him 
standing six paces from her. He was leaning forward, 
and his eyes were fixed upon her with a strained and tor- 
tured expression. Their eyes met and in that glance 
was bom the indelible impress of an understanding. 
They were both strangely silent, breathing quickly. He 
hardly dared to look at her again, and he handed her her 
parasol once more and bowed with a curious, old-time 
courtesy. 

Ah ! why had she stooped like that ? What was this 
conspiracy of nature that had used the curves of her 
body to send him cringing from her? How happy they 
might have been even now, with their fine occasional 
communion of thoughts! She had returned that day 
trembling with apprehension. She knew the catastrophe 
was coming. It was no surprise to her to receive his 
note that same evening: 

It is no good. I cannot finiah the portrait. 1 will call to- 
morrow to say good-by. j. B. 



280 OLGA BARDEt 

And then, that day! Ah! how vivid and poignant 
every moment of it had been ! She had waited for him 
here in this same room. She remembered that the nurse 
was going to take the child out, and she had hoped they 
would go before he came, but of course they didn't. 
Things never did happen like that. She brought the 
child in soon after he had arrived. But what had hap- 
pened up till then ? She was standing here, by the fire- 
place. The maid showed him in. He advanced rapidly 
and took her hand. She knew that her hands were cold. 
She could not speak. She put them both in his and he 
crushed them together in his strong grip. He drew her 
over there to the settee, and they sat down side by side. 
They did not like to look at each other, and like the weak 
fool she was, she could not keep back the tears that 
trickled down her cheek. He did not leave go of her 
hands, but she knew that his head was very close to hers, 
and he was devouring her whole soul with his glance. 
And then he said something so magic, the exact sound 
of it would ring through her ears forever: 
* ' Olga dear, you must not be unhappy ! ' ' 
It was the first time he had called her Olga! She 
* * must not be unhappy ! ' ' Heavens ! what was this mad- 
ness ? She could not keep him and she could not let him 
go. Forces suppressed within her all her life found 
their apotheosis at that moment and cried out in despera- 
tion. What had all this silly business of life to do with 
this ? What did she care ? The stars were calling, what 
did it matter if the satyrs piped, and the inane edifices 
of humanity crumpled to the dust? Happiness! Why 
should she not fight for that secret within herself, that 
surging desire to seek a compensation in some blinding 



RETROSPECTION 281 

passion that would raise tlie images within her to the 
heavens ? Had the world been so glad a place for her, so 
understanding, so sane? Did she not feel within her- 
self something greater than the life expressed around 
her? Should she not fight for this, tooth and nail, like 
a wild beast expressing its primitive virility? She 
put out her hand and touched the hair upon his tem- 
ple. 

"John," she had said, "you . . . you, tell me, are 
you happy?" 

And then he had burned her with his eyes, the longing 
was so tense, so poignant. She had given a little cry 
and put her hand across his eyes, as though she dare 
not let them see how much she understood. 

He had sat there then, immobile, like an image cast 
in bronze, looking down at his hands. 

It was at this moment that the nurse brought the 
child in. In the constrained minutes that followed, in 
which they both sought to find the matter-of-fact things 
to say, she was conscious of him gazing at the child as 
though he were transcending the inner mysteries. Some 
impulse bade her dismiss the nurse, and she took the child 
herself and hugged it to her bosom. She did not know 
why she did this, for the child at once seemed a burden 
to her, and she wanted to send it away again. It awak- 
ened, too, and seemed conscious of its importunity. She 
rocked it on her knee, and in a little while the queru- 
lous sounds subsided. She smiled and beckoned him to 
her, and they sat together once more side by side. It 
was she who ultimately broke the silence. 

"Perhaps," she said, "one day you will find it in your 
heart to finish the portrait." 



282 OLGA BARDEL 

He had looked at her with that wistful, boyish look, 
and said : 

"Who knows? Perhaps one day the vision of you will 
not blind me . . . perhaps one day when the nails in my 
flesh have lost their power of transmitting agony, I may 
not be ashamed to come to you. Then I shall paint you 
as 'The Mother' looking down at her son. I shall be 
modest then, reverent — they often accuse me of inso- 
lence as a painter ! — I shall have passed through the great 
fire. Strange, isn't it, that subject that all the greatest 
masters have painted, that they have excelled at painting 
— ^the subject of 'The Mother'? It is always that — the 
Mother looking at her Son. Perhaps it is because it is so 
symbolical of sacrifice. Fire and anguish, and lo ! some- 
thing indestructible is born !" 

She leaned towards him, and her face was flushed. 

"Oh, my dear," she had said. "My dear! My dear! 
You asked me if I were unhappy. Good God ! I am ! 
I am ! There is nothing for me, no hope, no refuge, if 
you do not help me." 

He had looked startled at her desperate appeal, and 
she had suddenly added, with the tears streaming down 
her cheeks : 

"If you were to ask me, I would throw my child 
from me. I am alone. Do you understand? — alone in 
the great drab world." 

She saw hira tremble and go to the window. He stood 
there very erect, his nostrils quivering. His chin was 
set, and suddenly he turned and looked at her. She was 
conscious of some great change in him, and the know- 
ledge came to her that in that tragic interval he had 
been gazing into the vision of his father 's eyes. She rose 



RETROSPECTIOX 283 

and weut toward him, but lie put up his hand, and cried 
out: 

"No, no! Let me look at you ayain like that." 

She obeyed quite eahnly, as though she had no power to 
do otherwise. She could not remember how long she had 
sat there looking down at the child, but she knew that at 
length he had come and put his hands, one on either side 
of her head, and raised it gently, and looked at her. 
And then he had touched her hair, passing his hand over 
it as though forming an imaginary frame. And then, 
without looking back, he walked on tiptoe from the 
room. 

How vividly the whole thing came back to her to-day 
as she sat there in the drawing-room, listening to the 
singing of the brass kettle on the tripod, waiting for 
Mollie Fittleworth. She rose and looked at herself in the 
mirror. She had not aged much during these years, and 
yet it struck her that she did not look an appropriate 
hostess for such a room. It seemed to demand some one 
gayer, of a different mold. As she turned once more 
to the table, the door opened, and a maid entered, fol- 
lowed by a vision of loveliness. 

"Miss Fittleworth." 

The maid's announcement was drowned by the cry of 
greeting from IMollie herself. 

' ' My dear ! how good it is to see you again ! ' ' 

The women embraced, and then Olga held the younger 
one apart. 

"My dear," she exclaimed, "how pretty you 've 
grown ! ' ' 

The flush of pleasure that lighted ]\rollie's features at 
this remark did not tend to lessen the impression. She 



284 OLGA BARDEL 

was indeed a very pretty girl. Her brilliant coloring 
and bright eyes and the mass of fair hair cunningly 
waved beneath her hat emphasized the vivacity of her 
engaging presence. There was still something of the 
rogue about her, and her eyes never ceased to sparkle 
with the joy of living. 

"I 'm just dying to see the children and to hear all 
your news!" she exclaimed. 

It occurred to Olga that as she sat there in the setting 
of chintz and satinwood and the glitter of little silver 
things, how well she took her place. John Braille would 
like to paint her sitting there. He would call it *'The 
Hostess. ' ' He would find an amount of mordant ' ' fun ' ' 
in doing it. 

"You must have tea first," she said. ''And tell me 
all about 'God's country.' " 

And then Harry came in. He was dressed in flannels 
— for they still went to the Guildefords to play tennis. 
He looked very handsome to-day. The years had affected 
him little, except for the slight increase of girth, and a 
certain inelasticity in the lines of his face. She saw him 
advance, and his eyes suddenly lighten with undisguised 
admiration when he beheld Mollie. There was consider- 
able laughter in recalling old days, for Harry could 
hardly believe that this was the little fair child that he 
met at Mrs. Fittleworth 's so many years ago. She soon 
noticed that he assumed one of his gay, animated moods 
that he always put on when any one was present whom 
he wanted to please, and Mollie sparkled with pleasant 
Americanisms that she had gathered on the other side. 
Olga's task as a hostess soon became a negligible one, 
but after a time she said : 



RETROSPECTION 285 

''I 'm going to America too, Mollie; so you must give 
me some introductions." 

They both looked up at her, surprised, and she con- 
tinued : 

"Yes, I 'm tired of inactivity. I 've been talking to 
my agent, and he thinks that if I play here in the au- 
tumn he can arrange a tour for me in the States next 
year." 

"My!" exclaimed Mollie. "But what will you do 
about the babies, dear?" 

"I have an excellent nurse," said Olga ; and then, 
after a pause, she smiled and added, "And you can 
come, and keep an eye on them sometimes, Mollie, if 
you 're here." 



CHAPTER VII 

''the comfortable crucifixion" 

SHE was lying on the couch in her hotel — the 
Chateau Barzac — at Quebec. On the morrow she 
was to return to England. The tour had been 
what is known in the musical profession as a "half- 
success." Her agent, a small, frog-faced man in New 
York called Johansen, of tremendous virility, had raged 
with promises and optimism. But these she found had 
only been fulfilled in a minor degree. She also suspected 
that a sum of money that had been advanced to him for 
advertising purposes had only partially been expended, 
and she had experienced the greatest difficulty in getting 
her fees from hira. The worry of this, added to the dis- 
comfort of living continuously for three months in over- 
heated trains and hotels, had brought about a slight 
nervous collapse. She had had to cancel the last three 
weeks of the tour and rest in this hotel in Quebec. The 
placid little American woman named Edith Yarrow, who 
had acted as companion and courier to her, had had to 
return to Boston that morning. 

She rose and went to the window. It was a gorgeous 
view. She looked down on to the roofs of the old town. 
The whole country was buried in snow, except where the 
waters of the St. Lawrence, reflecting the blue vault of 
the winter sky, rode proudly seawards. 

286 



''THE COMFORTABLE CRUCIFIXION" 287 

In spite of her illness and the unsatisfactory business 
arrangements, she had enjoyed the tour. She had felt 
that she was to an extent satisfying some fundamental 
purpose. She had again felt that "magic thrill of lis- 
tening crowds, ' ' many people had been kind to her, and 
in some towns she had had a great success. Nevertheless 
her heart was yearning for the two children, and she was 
always thinking of Harry, and worrying about the little 
things concerning him, wondering whether he was 
being properly looked after, and whether he was 
wretched without her. He wrote her short affectionate 
notes, and when she was tired she yearned for the warm 
embraces of his arms and the pressure of his heart 
against hers. 

The bright winter sun danced upon the snow. In ten 
days she would be back. She would feel the warm com- 
fort of her home life once more around her. She would 
not give up her playing. She would work harder, and 
be more ambitious, but she would stifle something within 
herself, and be loyal to the conditions fate had imposed 
upon her. 

She put on her furs and went out into the sun. It 
was entrancing, this town, with its tortuous streets, and 
its old-world associations, and its sturdy habitants, in- 
troducing a note of French vivacity into the stern busi- 
ness of living. It seemed peculiarly peaceful after the 
almost fantastic modernity of the American cities. She 
went to the post-office and sent a cable to Harry : 

Passage booked Saturday Philomena love. 

Olga. 

Then she wandered down towards the river. As she 
passed through a narrow street of dilapidated buildings. 



288 OLGA BARDEL 

a tall man in tattered furs passed her. His face was wan 
and his black, unkempt beard gave him a wild, bizarre 
appearance. He looked at her abstractedly and passed 
on. When he had gone about ten paces, they both 
turned, and looked at each other simultaneously. She 
gave a cry, and ran towards him. 

"Montague!" she called. 

He stood there gazing at her, as though probing the 
depths of his memory, and then he said in a low voice : 

"Olger!" 

She put out her hands, and he held them tight. She 
was conscious that in spite of his disheveled appearance 
and his gaunt and hollow features, there was about him 
some wistful and humanizing quality. His eyes lighted 
with pleasure at seeing her, and he murmured : 

"My! . . . Olger! It 's little Olger!" 

"I 've been playing here," she said, "on a tour. I 'm 
going back to-morrow. Can 't we have a talk ? ' ' 

He looked down, and said : 

"I 'm working till seven o'clock — unloading timber. 
Could you — could I — see you this evening?" 

"Will you come to my hotel?" she asked. 

He looked at his clothes, and smiled, then shook his 
head. 

"I can't do that," he said. "Will you come and see 
me, 337 Montcalm Avenue, just above Powel's saloon?" 

She nodded and answered, "All right, Montague, I '11 
come. 337 Montcalm Avenue," and she wrote it down. 

He scratched his ear and grinned at her once more, 
then, taking off his cloth cap, he slouched away. 

She thought it as well that evening, in view of the 



''THE COMFORTABLE CRUCIFIXION" 289 

cold and her recent illness, to hire a sleigh, and she ar- 
rived at the address Montague had given her just after 
half-past eight. She told the driver to come back for 
her at half-past nine. 

It was a poor but solidly built house, with double mIh- 
dows like nearly every other building in Quebec. She 
passed through a passage that skirted a saloon where 
men were playing a game something like skittles, and 
some one was singing to the accompaniment of an ac- 
cordion, and went up the stairs. On the first landing 
there were several doors, and there seemed to be a good 
deal of noise and confusion, but ^Tontague was stand- 
ing there, waiting for her. He smiled a welcome and 
said: 

"Come into my room." 

She followed him into a square room where there was 
a bed and a table and a few other odds and ends of fur- 
niture. There was no stove, but it was apparently cen- 
trally heated ; it seemed warm and was fairly decent. 
He gave Olga a chair and sat on the bed himself. 

"This is one of the Skinner buildings," he explained, 
"laid out for mechanics. Three dollars a week I pay. 
Not bad, is it? — includes a hot bath any time. Great 
country this is. A man may live here and be free," and 
he made a sweeping movement with his hand and then 
said: 

"Now tell us all about yourself, Olger." 

He seemed to have lost the apathy that was so char- 
acteristic of him in the old days. He spoke roughly but 
eagerly, and was obviously anxious to hear her news. 
She told him as briefly as possible that she was happily 



290 OLGA BAKDEL 

married, and had two children — both boys — that she still 
played the piaoio, and had just had a successful tour 
through the States and Canada. 

"Yer 'usband didn't come with yer, then?" Mon- 
tague asked when she had finished. 

She hesitated and said : 

"No; you see it 's such a long way and so — expensive. 
Besides, you see, he is a composer — it would have wasted 
his time." 

Montague said, " I see ! " and he looked at her narrowly. 

"Now tell me what you 've been doing," she asked 
quickly. 

Montague passed his hand over his beard and looked 
down. He seemed to be trying to remember something, 
and at last he sighed, and said : 

"Oh, I dunno — most everything. Trying to do and 
undo, trying to make and unmake. Doing things, and 
then wondering why I do 'em — going round in circles 
like." 

"We all do that," said Olga. 

"Yep," said Montague, looking up at her again. 
"And the happier you are the smaller the circle is likely 
to be." 

The sound of the accordion reached them from below. 
The doleful sounds immediately reminded Olga of the 
last evening she had spent with Irene. She must not 
tell Montague the truth about Irene. It seemed strange, 
but she instinctively felt that it would probably upset 
him very much. 

"He has improved," she thought, "beyond all recog- 
nition. Fancy him saying that about the circles ! What 



"THE COMFORTABLE CRUCIFIXION" 291 

has Montague been through that has raised him above 
the others?" 

Montague fidgeted about, and then, without looking at 
her, he said in an altered voice : 

" 'Ave yer seen anything of Karl and Irene?" 

She was prepared for this, and she answered : 

"Not for a long time. Karl had some work in Paris, 
something to do with horses. Irene — I have not heard 
from for many years. She was living with a — lady then. 
Uncle Grubhofer died, you know." 

Montague looked at her with a far-away expression, 
and then he said: 

''Uncle Grubhofer, you still call 'im, eh? You don't 
know, then?" 

Olga shivered slightly, and then said: 

"No. I don't know. I was there just before he died. 
There was an old woman there. I had the idea — But 
what does it matter now, Montague? It 's all over!" 

Montague lighted a cigarette, and his hands trembled. 

"No one can never say that it don't matter, never!" 
he enunciated. "Lord! we 're all victims of it. Don't 
you see, we 're all the playthings of little things that 
*appened long ago? 'Ow many of our aristocratic fam- 
ilies are descended from the mistresses of kings what 
died thousands of years ago, eh? Think of that! 
That 's something to think about, ain't it? The sport of 
idle passions, eh? Each one of us at some mad time, 
eh? D' 5^ou know what I 'appen to know? When Uncle 
Grubhofer — as you call 'im — died, I was in Scotland. I 
saw it in the paper, and I made a bee-line for London, 
and went to a lawyer I know of. I was a bit late, 'cause 



292 OLGA BARDEL 

Karl was there afore me. And then d ' you know what 
we found out ? Uncle Grubhof er had left nine thousand 
pounds ! And not a penny could we touch ! 'E was 
no more our uncle than the King of China was ! He left 
no will, and 'e 'ad n 't a relation in the world, and the 
'ole bally lot went to the Crown ! Nine thousand pounds ! 
forty-five thousand dollars! Think of it!" 

Montague opened and shut his hands, and looked at 
the wall, as though considering whether the amount 
seemed more attractive in pounds or dollars; then sud- 
denly the tone of his voice changed. 

"I don't care. I 'm not sure we 're not better without 
it. Karl and I quarreled like the devil at the time. I 
thought Karl would get D. T.'s. He drank and nearly 
went mad. The lawyer was a nice bloke, and we found 
out some things. I '11 show yer something. ' ' 

Montague went to a drawer and rummaged amongst 
some papers. At last he found a letter written on a 
faded mottled paper, which was in an envelope addressed 
to "Mr. Julius Grubhof er." The writing was in a 
quaint, formal hand, rather neatly written but giving the 
impression that the writer had been at great pains to 
complete it. It simply said : 

My dear, this can't go on. I believe Nathan smells a rat, 
besides it is breaking my heart. H. 

Olga's lips turned white when she read this, and she 
looked at Montague aghast. 

"What does it mean?" she said. 

" 'H' stands for Hilda," he answered, with the pupils 
of his eyes distending. "D'you know who that is? 
It 's your mother." 



"THE COMFORTABLE CRUCIFIXION" 293 



<( ' 



No! . . . No!" Olga hissed her negation as though 
she had been struck with a whip. 

"Oh, yes, yes, yes, it was," cried Montague excitedly. 
"It was your motlier, yours and mine! I found out 
more than that — the whole pretty story. Oh, my God ! 
the playthings of idle passions, eh ? This Grubhof er was 
engaged to marry an Irish girl. They were both young. 
He left her in Liverpool because he heard your mother 
sing one day at a concert. He followed her to London. 
She was a singer, you know, quite a concert artist. He 
followed 'er about like a dog. I believe she led 'ira on, 
amused 'erself with 'im, then chucked 'im and ran away. 
It must 'ave bin a fine old game. Lord knows what 
'appened precisely. The Irish girl turned up, and there 
was pretty good trouble, no doubt. Suddenly one day 
she runs off with Nathan Bardel; a tailor from White- 
chapel," 

Montague feverishly licked the end of his cigarette 
and looked at his sister furtively. Then he continued : 

"A lot of the rest of it is what you call 'conjecture,' 
eh? and things what the lawyer found out. 'E was a 
nice bloke to me. 'E knew Uncle Grubhofer in those 
days hisself. 'E says 'e was a good-looking bloke and 
used to attend church and all that. When this 'ere 
business 'appened, when she went off with the tailor, 
the lawyer says 'e collapsed like a pack o' cards. 'E 
lor.st 'is moral sense, says the lawyer. 'E went in for 
awful vices and spoilt 'is figure ; then 'e became religious 
— you know, mad religious. Then 'e chucked that, as 
though it weren't no bally consolation, and went after 
'er again. 'E followed 'er, and made 'er life a misery. 
'E lent Bardel money, tied 'im up with contracts and 



294 OLGA BARDEL 

got 'im in 'is power. Then 'e went to live with 'em, 
'E terrorized their lives, d ' you understand ? 'E was 
clever, and Bardel was a fool." 

The air was tense and strained ; the brother and sister 
gazed at each other. The accordion was droning on, 
and a voice kept ascending : 

An' he left his little yaller gal 

On the ole plantation. 

Yalloloo! Yallaloo! he left his yaller gal. 

You may hear her sighin', 

You may hear her dyin' 

On the ole plantation. 

"Tell me," said Olga after a long pause, ''why did — 
If Uncle was fond of — Mother, why did he — why did he 
treat her children — like he did?" 

"The lawyer 'ad 'is theory about that," answered 
Montague. " It 's in some ways the only good point 
about the 'ole awful business. 'E believes that in spite 
of everything — Mother never — " 

Montague's voice sank to a whisper and neither of 
them dared look at each other. 

"You know what I mean, Olger — whatever might be 
said, we 're Nathan 's children ! Don 't you know 'ow 
'e liked to 'arp on that? — 'Nathan's children,' 'e says! 
It was always that. 'E saw all 'is chances go, 'e became 
sort of withered, sour, desperit, cruel. 'E nurtured an 
'atred against Nathan's children. 'E worked out 'is 
starved passions on 'em, d'you see? What was it the 
lawyer calls it? A sort of noorosis! Oh, ray God! 
D'you know why me and Karl quarreled in the end? 
It was all over the nine thousand quid we never got. 
I says to 'im one night, 'Well, thank God, Mother wasn't 



*'TIIE COMFORTABLE CRUCIFIXION" 295 

a harlot!' and 'e says, 'Harlot be damned! We might 
'ave had nine thousand quid ! ' D ' you 'ear that ? 'E 
says, '"We might 'ave 'ad nine thousand quid!' D'you 
see what 'e meant? When 'e says that, I struck 'im 
over the mouf." 

Olga jumped up, and the tears started from her 
strained eyes. 

"Oh, Montague," she said, "I 'm glad you did that!" 

A strange silence followed, each feeling a quivering 
sense of satisfaction in the communal understanding 
between them, but each shuddering under the shadow of 
these dubious passions that had clouded the past. 

"What could she have meant," murmured Olga after 
a time, "by 'This can't go on'?" 

"Women are different to men, Olger; you know that 
by now, don't you? I can't explain it. She likes the 
glamour of things, but man is more of an out-and-out — 
devil. 'E wants all 'is satisfaction or nothing. D'you 
know what I mean? I don't profess to know what 
'appened in that 'ouse in Canning Town, only I look on 
the fact that Uncle Grubhofer was cruel to us as a satis- 
factory sign." 

Olga looked at him quickly and said : 

"Yes . . . yes, I see what you mean. I shall take 
it so too. I 'm glad you 've thought like this, Mon- 
tague. ' ' 

Montague got up and walked up and down the room. 

"I 'ave n't always, God 'elp me! You only learn 
things by experience, by suffering. I believed the worst 
of everything then. After leaving Karl I think I lost 
my 'moral sense' too — as the old man said. I 'd saved 
up fifty pound in Scotland, and I spent the lot inside 



296 OLGA BARDEIi 

three weeks. I was as mad as Karl at losing the nine 
thousand quid, only in my most drunken moments I 
never lost sight of that point — my mother was straight. 
I stuck to it in my mind that my mother was straight. 
I just insisted on it, but I didn't attempt to prove it 
to myself till afterwards. When I got through my 
money I worked my way out to South America in a 
cargo steamer from Bristol. I was very ill on the way 
and I suffered hell. There was a Liverpool-Irish mate 
who was over us — ' ' 

Montague stared at the wall, and passed his hand over 
his brow, as though the memories of that voyage were 
too horrible to look back on. 

"I did all sorts of job in Buenos Aires, on the wharf, 
in stores, looking after cattle, begging and touting in 
every way. I got locked up once. It was some business 
in connection with a faro club. I made my way to 
Mexico after that and lived for a long time on the ranch 
of a religious Scotchman who had married a Creole 
woman. They starved me and made me work fourteen 
hours a day, but there was something about the place I 
liked; it was — big — romantic, you know; old buildings 
and great open prairies. I left there because the Scotch- 
man murdered the Creole woman, bashed 'er with the 
butt end of a gun — mad jealous 'e was. You couldn't 
believe it — she was one of the ugliest trolls you ever see. 
'E managed to hush the matter up, but I cleared out. 
I hid on a train and made my way up to New Orleans. 
It was there that I met Tania." 

Montague stopped and looked at his sister; then he 
leaned forward on his knees and kept his eyes fixed on 
the ground. 



*'THE COMFORTABLE CRUCIFIXION" 297 

"I don't know now whether I 'm glad or sorry I met 
'er. She was an American girl of Russian extraction — 
'er mother was Russian. She tended a bar there, and 
there was always a lot of fellers 'anging round 'er, I 
fell mad in love with 'er. I crawled after 'er, and tried 
to get 'er to run away with me. But she was like a lot 
of 'em, liked to mess about and lead you on, and play 
off one against another. There was a feller there, a big 
man, a foreman in an oil fuel works. 'E warned me off 
'er, and shot at me one day with his gun, breaking my 
arm. I was in the 'orspital for some time. \^nien I come 
out I goes back to 'er. I 'd 'ad a lot of time to think of 
'er, and I was madder than ever. I told 'er a lot of lies 
and said I 'ad money and I 'd mate her rich. She fell to 
it at last, and said she 'd go off with me. I was desperit 
and did n 't know what to do, and I stole four hundred 
dollars from a cigar merchant I knew in the town. But 
the oil foreman got wind of it some'ow and blew the 
gaff on me. I was shoved in quod again. "When I 
comes out she was living with the oil man. I nearly 
went out of my mind and drowned myself. . . . One 
day I 'ears as 'e 's treating 'er cruelly and beatin' 'er. 
I lay in wait for 'im, and when 'e comes along I chal- 
lenges 'im to fight. I knew 'e 'd kill me, but it seemed 
to me the only way. 'E scowls at me and says, 'IMeet 
me to-morrer morning at eight o'clock at Scragg's 
Gully. ' I never slept that night, but I was there to time 
in the morning. 'E came alone and we each 'ad our 
gun. At thirty paces we started blazing. 'Is second 
shot clipped the top of my ear and then 'is machine 
jammed. I 'card 'im growl and rush at me. I could 
'ave shot 'im like a dog. But I don't know 'ow it was 



298 OLGA BARDEIi 

I could n't bring myself to do it. I threw my gun down 
and went at 'im. 'E seemed surprised and knocked 
me clean over with his first blow. I was sort of uncon- 
scious. I saw 'im stoop and pick up my gun. I thought 
'e was goin' to finish me. 'E came up and stared in my 
face. Then I saw 'im throw the gun away, and 'e threw 
some water over my face and sat down. After a time 
I got up and we both walked back to New Orleans with- 
out speakin'. When we got there Tania had gone! 
There was no trace of 'er. We both went rampaging 
around and on a clue I got I followed 'er to Charleston, 
Virginia. When I got there, she 'd left. I followed 
'er around for four months. At last I got to Chicago, 
It was one da}^ in the summer. I 'd fairly got on the 
track of 'er this time. She was a singer, you know, and 
could dance too like the best of 'em. I found 'er living 
in a brothel on Lake-side. That did me. I went raving 
mad. I bought neat spirit and raged like a maniac 
from morning to night. I made up my mind one night 
I 'd finish myself. I made straight down towards the 
lake in the darkness. Suddenly I feels a great 'and on 
my shoulder and I looks round. It was the oil fore- 
man." 

Montague wetted his lips nervously and pulled at his 
beard. 

"I s'pose that 's the rummiest thing that could ever 
'appen to any one. 'E says to me, ' 'Ere, pard, don't 
put on that way; come with me.' I followed 'im to a 
room at the top of a building near a wharf. 'E 'ad a 
curious set expression on 'is face. 'E opened the winder 
and said, 'Listen!' I could 'ear in the distance the 
sound of music and dancin' and tambourines goin'. 'E 



<< 



THE COMFORTABLE CRUCIFIXION" 299 



comes close up to me and says, 'No one ain't got no 
darned monopoly in crucifixion, ' 'e says. I could n 't 
catch the drift of 'im at first, but I did after a time. 
'Why should yer burn yer soul out,' 'e says, 'when you 
can come 'ere and be comfortably crucified?' Com- 
fortably crucified ! My Gawd ! I tried to fix that in 
my mind. D'you know 'ow it is, Olger? Somethin' 
seemed to come crashin' through my brain like a blaze 
of light. I think 'e was mad — the oil merchant — stark, 
raving mad. But 'e wasn't altogether mad when 'e 
said that. A comfortable crucifixion ! Think of it ! 
Don't you know, it was the idea of findin' a sort of sanc- 
tuary — is n't that the word? — in what you was suffering. 
'E 'ired this room right above the place where she was 
carryin' on, and 'e come 'ere and 'comfortably cruci- 
fied' himself. Did you ever 'ear anything like it? I 
come away then. I give 'im best. I 'd thought I 'd 
loved the girl, but I see that this big savage oilman left 
me guessing. I seemed to see lots of things I 'ad n 't 
seen before. It was as though all this vileness and 
wretchedness could be stood up against. There was us 
two — a couple of the choicest blackguards in the Middle 
West, who 'd tried to kill each other in our passion for 
this girl, looking at each other like a couple of lambs 
in that dark room, listenin' with beatin' 'earts to the 
tambourines and the sound of swishin' skirts, lookin' at 
each other with a sort of understandin', as though at 
any minute life might begin all over again. A com- 
fortable crucifixion! My Gawd!" 

"You may hear hor siphin', 
You may hear her dyin' 
On the ole plantation." 



300 OLGA BARDEL 

Montague wiped his brow. Suddenly he stood up and 
put out his hands : 

"I 'ope you '11 be 'appy in the life you lead, Olger," 
he said. 

She felt an overbearing contraction of her heart. 
She wanted to help Montague and at the same time to 
cry her eyes out. At last she managed to say: 

"Montague, I 've been getting on quite well, and my 
husband is well off. Will you let me help you?" 

"How could you help me?" he said quickly. He 
pondered for some moments, and then added, "I 'm 
glad you 're happy," and he shrugged his shoulders, as 
though, as far as he was concerned, the interview was 
at an end. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE RETURN 

THERE is surely nothing so green as the green 
of Devonshire on a morning in April. The 
boat train with its load of sleepy occupants 
crawled through the sea mists of Plymouth just after 
dawn and raced away towards London. How strange 
and penetrating is this nostalgia of familiar and en- 
dearing things to one who travels. Olga suddenly real- 
ized that during her three months' tour in America she 
had never seen anything really green. Gay hedges and 
precipitous slopes flashed by. The green was slashed 
here and there by red clay, and cattle of a very similar 
color struck a vivid note. She recalled the holiday she 
had spent there with Harry and the youngest child and 
the Streathams. She feared she had been a poor holi- 
day companion that year, keeping too much to herself, 
pandering to those feelings that held her in abstraction. 
She must make up for that. They would go to Devon- 
shire again this year. She would try and be more com- 
panionable. Soon the boys would be growing up. She 
would have the joy of educating them. She would make 
them ambitious — in the finest sense. Had she always 
been fair to Harry? It was very difficult. She had 
looked up to him so at first, relied on him. And then, 

when she had found — something missing — when she had, 

301 



302 OLGA BARDEL 

as it were, to take the lead, he had seemed to shrink from 
her. He had not argued with her. He had simply- 
avoided every question on which they had differed, treat- 
ing her with an aloofness not untouched with contempt. 
She made up her mind that she would develop a new 
intimacy. She would make him talk, even if they quar- 
reled. Quarrels may be outlived, but suppression breeds 
alienation, indifference. . . . She would get down to 
what he really thought. She would try and understand 
his point of view, she would in any case sympathize 
with it if she did not agree. They must be more to 
each other. And she would fire him with new ambi- 
tions. 

She had breakfast on the train, and talked to a nice 
American doctor and his wife. She felt garrulous and 
cheerful, more cheerful than she had felt for many years. 
As the train passed through Surrey, she remembered the 
morning when she had returned from her visit to Irene 
at "Lar-r-sham." It was just such a morning as this. 
She remembered how proud she had felt when the work- 
man had asked her if she minded having the window up. 
And then the approach through the gray ponderous 
loveliness of London. There it was, looking just the 
same! supremely indifferent to whether she came or 
went. Would Harry be at the station? It was rather 
early for him. He would not know perhaps what time 
the train arrived. Perhaps he would have telephoned 
and found out, and driven down in a taxi? She would 
not allow herself to expect him. It was perhaps too 
much to expect. Nevertheless she would keep her eyes 
open. There was all the business of getting her things 
through the customs — not that he was much good at that. 



THE RETURN 303 

poor boy! Would he have altered? What would the 
children look like? 

Signal boxes flashed by and great converging masses 
of rails on either side. The train was slowing down. 
Her heart beat quickly. There was a rumble and a few 
spasmodic jerks by the engine, and then they rolled 
alongside the big platform. Immediately all was con- 
fusion. She gripped a few belongings and with great 
difficulty secured a porter. There was a crowd waiting 
to meet people. For a second she thought she saw him 
— a young man in a felt hat — but it was not he, it was 
a boy waving to an elderly couple. She spent half an 
hour at the customs barrier. It was very cold, and she 
felt impatient. At last all her things were passed, and 
she was installed in a cab. She tipped the porter an 
unreasonable sum, and they glided off through the yard. 
Home! In half-an-hour she would indeed be home. 
She had not thought it possible that she would ever be 
so happy at the prospect of getting back to that home 
in Hampstead. How dear and familiar and slow-going 
the streets of London seemed ! The cab darted across 
the river, skirted the Strand and went up Wellington 
Street. What was that occasion when she had felt so 
remarkably like she did at that moment? She remem- 
bered ! It was when she returned from the visit to ]\Iiss 
Kenway, when she had kept on exclaiming, "Look! 
Look!" She yearned to say this to-day. She felt very 
young, as though she had never been in a cab before. 
She wanted to say * ' Look ! Look ! ' ' when they passed 
the barrows in Camden Town, and she wanted to sing 
when the cab wound its way up Hampstead Hill. In 
five minutes she would be home ! April ! and the little 



304 OLGA BARDEL 

green buds were already bursting forth in the Hamp- 
stead Gardens. Here was the road! How slowly the 
driver seemed to crawl along! She had to call out of 
the window : 

"A little further along, on the right — Wildwood!" 

They creaked into the drive and drew up. She sprang 
out of the cab and rang the bell. A strange maid 
opened the door and looked at her rather solemnly. "I 
didn't know Ellen had left," she thought. But she 
smiled gaily at the new maid and walked straight in. 
She looked into the dining-room and the drawing-room, 
but Harry was not there. 

"The lazy darling!" she thought. "He's not up 
yet." 

She ran up the stairs and darted into the bedroom. 
The bed was made up, but it had not been slept in. And 
then a strange and uncanny feeling came over her. She 
walked down the stairs more slowly. The new maid 
was carrying in some things. She said to her: 

"Will you pay the cabman?" and she handed her 
some silver. 

She went into the dining-room. It was all very neat 
and clean, almost as she had left it. A large fire was 
crackling. Her eye searched the room and alighted on 
the mantelpiece. There were two letters there. She 
went up on tiptoe and looked at them. They were both 
addressed to her and in writing that she recognized. 
She touched them with her hand, and then drew back, 
and suddenly looked at the door. For some unaccount- 
able reason, she tiptoed across the room again and locked 
it. Then she stared across the room at the two notes. 
She felt physically sick, and had to lean on the table. 



THE RETURN 305 

Then very slowly she went up to them. She picked them 
uj) with trembling hands and threw them on to the 
table. She could not account for the sense of guilty 
furtiveness that possessed her. She dreaded being seen. 
She went to the window and made sure that no one could 
see through the curtains. Then she went back and lis- 
tened at the door. Tiie maid had apparently dismissed 
the cabman — there was no sound of her. Then she took 
up the letters and sat in the easy chair by the fire, and 
opened them. Curiously enough she opened Mollie's 
first. She was in no fit state to read coherently; she 
saw the writing through a jangled vision. She tried to 
read the whole letter at a glance. She had the impres- 
sion of a sequence of wild appeals. 

Oh, my dear [it ran], how can I ever expect you to forgive me? 
You can't imagine what I have suffered and do suffer through you, 
dear. The thought of you is killing nie. But oh, my dear, it is 
all so inexplicable, so frantically difficult. I somehow can't be- 
lieve it is really wrong. God would not allow such a feeling. I 
feel sure, dear, you cannot love him as I love him. I have lain 
awake at night struggling with tliis thing. But it is no good. 
Oh, my dear Olga, you will be brave about this? I cannot believe 
that it can ever have been so much to you as it is to me — 

There was more of this letter, but before she had got 
to these words she was reading Harry's, starting in the 
middle. 

To say more would be madness. Please try and be charitable to 
me, Olga. You are so splendid. I know you will have the 
strength to live this down. I know that in your inmost heart 
you rather despise me, and for years your love for me has cooled 
as your ambitions have increased. Of course everything shall be 
done for you. You shall have the custody of the children, and 
half my income. I enclose the name and address of my lawyers, 



306 OLGA BARDEL 

who will see that everything is arranged as you wish. To make 
excuses would be ridiculous. It simply seems to me — this is the 
best thing for the three of us. Life is a short business, and I do 
not believe in three people being unhappy because of the conven- 
tions. Since the birth of Richard we seemed to drift apart and to 
have little in common. I am willing to admit that this may have 
been as much my fault as yours. But I am sure you will be 
reasonable about it — 

There was more of this letter also, but it blurred in 
her brain. She put a hand to her bosom, and the room 
became dark. But something inside her kept saying, 
"Don't give way." She went down on her knees and 
peered into the fire, as though she expected to find some 
fuller explanation there. Somehow this had never 
occurred to her. Her whole mental attitude would have 
to alter, everything would have to be on a different basis. 
But her immediate efforts were required to stem the 
flood of self-pity and the sense of outrage. She could 
not deny to herself that she had been yearning for her 
husband, for the touch of him and the sight of him. 
But now — she would never see him again, never, never, 
never ! Even if she did see him he would be a stranger. 
All the little sacred intimacies of their connection came 
crowding upon her, the memory of his voice and of the 
moments when he had been kind and affectionate. It 
seemed so cruel, so terribly cruel and sudden. Had she 
been a fool to go away? and to ask Mollie to come and 
keep an eye on the children? She fought against this 
feeling. If it had got to happen, perhaps it were better 
to happen thus, rather than to linger over years, and 
for her to watch its gradual growth, to be conscious of 
its development, with all the secret meetings and heart- 
burnings. Poor Mollie! would he be true to her and 



THE RETURN 307 

kind ? Something told her that ]\Iollie was a fitter mate 
than she. She remembered how it struck her when 
Mollie entered the room, her appropriateness in the set- 
ting of satinwood and tea-cups. She shivered, and the 
tears ran down her cheeks. His lawyers! She wished 
he hadn't mentioned them in that letter. The mention 
of them made her feel lonelier. She had come back to 
an empty world. The lawyers would look after her! 

* * Mummy ! Mummy ! ' ' 

She started up and dashed the tears from her eyes. 
In a second she had unlocked the door and her arms 
were around her eldest son. She buried her face in him, 
for she dared not let him see her eyes. 

*'My darling! my darling!" she kept murmuring. 
The nurse came down the stairs with the baby, and the 
same scene was repeated. It was a new nurse, an elderly 
person. They were all just going out. 

'*! '11 come with j^ou," said Olga. 

She spent the day with the children, afraid to leave 
them for a moment. She fondled them and played with 
them, and at seven o'clock helped the nurse to bathe 
them and put them to bed. Then the hours were ap- 
proaching that she dreaded. She sat alone in the draw- 
ing-room after the children had gone to bed, on an 
upright chair under the reading-lamp, and knitted. She 
knitted hard — a woolen comforter for Richard — and 
blessed the memory of Mrs. Fittleworth who had taught 
her to knit. She knitted desperately till late at night, 
and her eyes ached. She tried to control the riot of 
emotions that pervaded her by concentrating on one or 
two clear issues: her duty, her children, her work. 

She waited till long after all the servants had gone 



308 OLGA BARDEL 

to bed. Then she turned out the light and crept up- 
stairs. There were two bedrooms she might have used 
other than the one she had been in the habit of sharing 
with Harry, but by some instinct she chose the old room. 
It looked exactly the same as it did the night before she 
left England. Everything about it recalled him. She 
could almost see him moving about the room, laughing 
and talking and being impatient about his collar-stud. 
She could hear the melodious tones of his voice as he 
addressed her. She could see the boyish attitude of him 
as he sat up in bed and "ragged" her about the time 
it took to do her hair. 

Curiously enough, in the corner of the room was a 
case of golf-clubs that had been packed ready to go. 
He had evidently forgotten them. The golf-clubs 
affected her strangely. She took them with trembling 
hands and put them under the bed out of sight. She 
struggled with herself and pushed back these visions 
that kept recurring. Very quietly she got into bed and 
turned out the light. She wished she weren't so tired. 
It made it so much more difficult. The moon was up 
and her pale light stole through the casement curtains. 
She knew she would not sleep, and yet she was so tired. 
She struggled to withstand the pressure of those mem- 
ories. It was always when she was tired that she wanted 
him so much. She could at that moment almost feel 
his arms around her and his lips pressed against her 
eyes and hair. This would never, never, never occur 
to her again. Ah, God ! she must not think of it. Was 
she not a woman? A woman! What did that mean? 
Did it not mean that she was entitled to her weakness, 
that she had the right to be loved and petted? A sud- 



TTIH RETURN 309 

den wave of self-pity flooded her and in the still night 
she sobbed for her own wretchedness. She seemed to 
see her life in perspective, her sordid childhood, the even 
more sordid period when she was exploited by the Du 
Cassons, her brief years of happiness with Mrs. Fittle- 
worth, her infatuation for Harry, her disillusionment, 
the stifling of her talents and her spiritual ambitions, 
and then — this! outrage! betrayal! She was alone, 
utterly alone, as she had always been, as she would 
always be. Her loves and affections had proved illu- 
sions. The man she had taken for a god had come, taken 
his meed of her, and passed on to another woman. 
Could the children of such a passion be all in all to her ? 
"Would they not, on the contrary'-, be a constant torment ? 
Could happiness in any form ever come to her again ? 

Happiness! What was it Montague had said? — "the 
happier you are, the narrower the circle." "SYas that 
so ? Was there a greater circle, something that stretched 
out and embraced the heavens? Strange! in that hour 
her mind kept recurring to ]\rontague. She remembered 
the queer independent way he turned to her as she was 
going, and said, "How could you help me?" What 
did he mean by that? Could we not help each other? 
or were we all utterly alone, alone to follow these rings 
of light, to find our own place among the stars? Mon- 
tague had suffered, he had been through every phase of 
sin and sorrow, and he had turned to her and with a 
certain buoyancy had said, "How could you help me?" 
It was as though out of the fires of the anguish he had 
endured he had discovered some secret. He had some 
quality that Karl had not, and that Irene had not. She 
wondered whether she could not find it in herself. . . . 



310 OLGA BARDEL 

Suddenly she got out of bed and took the case of 
golf -clubs from under it and put them on a chair by the 
window, so that she could see them by the light of the 
moon. 

Her eyes were dry, and she smiled ironically. "This 
is what Montague would call my 'comfortable crucifix- 
ion,' " she said. 

She lay there a long time looking at the golf-clubs, 
and after a while the bitterness passed from her and she 
slept. It was a fitful sleep, and half an hour later she 
was awake again and thinking, "It was not his fault. 
God made him like that. If he wanted her more than 
me it was — only natural." Then she sighed and mut- 
tered, "Poor Mollie!" 

Near dawn she was becoming feverish. She had slept 
little and could not think coherently. She took some 
phenacetin and tried again. 

"It 's got to be lived through," she thought. 

At half-past seven a maid came in and pulled back 
the curtains and brought her a cup of tea. She was 
beginning to feel sleepy, but after drinking the tea she 
got up and went into the bathroom. The children were 
already up and singing about the house. She had a 
warm bath, and then a cold one, and as she rubbed her- 
self down with the towel she made one definite decision. 
She committed Harry's lawyers "to the devil." She 
would have none of them. She had made a few hundred 
pounds in America. She would touch none of his 
money. She would keep the children herself. This 
thought stimulated her. 

"There will be a lot to do," she kept thinking. 

And in this surmise she was not incorrect. There 



THE RETURN 311 

followed days of strenuous toil, and in their friction her 
bruised heart found relief. She went to see her agents 
about engagements. She made efforts to get pupils. 
She took a much smaller house, and spent two hundred 
pounds furnishing it. She reduced her staff to a " cook- 
general" and a nurse. She moved and left the letters 
from Harry's lawyers unanswered. Neither did she 
write to him or Mollie. There seemed nothing to say, 
or rather, there seemed everything to say or nothing. 
She did not feel capable of writing, so she left it alone. 
She received a heart-broken letter from Emma in 
Scotland. Emma now had children of her own, and 
wanted Olga to go and live with her. The idea appeared 
to Olga to be preposterous, and she found it difficult 
to answer it. Then further letters came from Harry 
and the lawj^ers and Mollie, all urging her to be reason- 
able and to accept the money "for the sake of the chil- 
dren." The Guildeiord girls called in a state of breath- 
less emotionalism, and cried and kissed her. But she 
was unresponsive. Then one day a very important- 
looking man forced his way in and interviewed her. He 
was Harry's lawyer. He talked incomprehensibly and 
at great length, and fluttered papers in her face. He 
w^as a terrifying person, so suave and clever and insin- 
cere. She came to the conclusion after he had gone that 
what he really wanted was that she should divorce 
Harry. She shivered at the idea, worked harder at her 
household affairs. The house and the children seemed 
to take up all her time. She very seldom got an oppor- 
tunity of practising, and in spite of the success she had 
had, engagements seemed hard to get, and pupils even 
more so. She knew that her money would not last for- 



312 OLGA BARDEU 

ever, and she would have to make desperate efforts to 
get more work. 

The only person who seemed sympathetic to her in 
those days was Sir Philip Ballater. He called a few 
days after her return to England. He made no refer- 
ence to her position, but was extremely gracious. He 
talked to her about abstract things, and listened atten- 
tively to her views on America. As he was leaving, he 
said in his quiet voice: 

"You know, dear lady, I and my house and every- 
thing I have is always at your disposal. It may be that, 
as I have had more experience of the world, you may 
at some time find my services of some little value. Pray 
make me happy by making use of them. ' ' 

She thanked him sincerely, and did indeed go to him 
for advice when she took her new house, and, in fact, in 
all matters connected with business. She felt happy 
in the clear detachment of his views. He never made 
her feel self-conscious or restless, and on many occasions 
when the children were fractious or the demands of the 
household insupportable, she would walk over to Lu- 
gano — as his house was called — and practise in the 
music-room. After the lawyer had been, and hinted at 
the question of divorce, she called on Sir Philip to ask 
his advice, and to her surprise he strongly urged her to 
divorce her husband. He pointed out that it would not 
only make her freer, but it would be better for Harry 
and Mollie, as they would be able to marry. This had 
not occurred to her. 

"Why couldn't the lawyer have said so?" she ex- 
claimed, and Sir Philip smiled. 



TUB RETURN 313 

"It is a lawyer's prerogative to talk in parables," 
he answered. 

It was perhaps more for Mollie's sake than any one's 
that she eventually set her teeth and determined to go 
through with the dreadful business. It was in effect 
rather less dreadful than she had anticipated. The suit, 
being undefended, did not entail a long trial, but the 
formalities seemed interminable. During those days she 
relied more and more upon Sir Philip, and he took a 
considerable amount of the unpleasant part of it out 
of her hands. Her agent also took advantage of the 
publicity that the case created and booked her for several 
engagements on the strength of it. 

"This will be nice for the children when they grow up 
and understand, won't it?" she said to Sir Philip when 
it was all over. 

The distinguished director looked at her through his 
pince-nez and sighed. 

"Ah!" he murmured at last. "It will indeed be 
unpleasant knowledge, but it will be better than if — the 
circumstances had been reversed." Then he paused, 
and added : 

"Perhaps one should not say it so soon, dear lady, but 
you are young yet, very, very young. It will perhaps 
be best for the children if their mother marries again 
before they have reached years of very great discretion." 

Olga did not answer. The whole thing was so tragic 
that all her energies were devoted to avoiding thinking 
of it. She worked hard from morning to night, and 
would not let herself dwell too much upon it. 

Through the influence of Sir Philip she got appointed 



314 OLGA BAEDEL 

as piano instructor at a very higli-class girls' school in 
Buckinghamshire. She went there one day a week, and 
it became one of her principal means of support. She 
soon found that the musical profession without com- 
mercial backing was a grim and serious business. She 
gave another recital, and although it was a fair success, 
it cost her money and nothing came out of it. 

"A prophet is not the only person without honor in 
his own country," the agent had said. "It would be 
much better if you called yourself Barjelski again." 

But she would not do this, and she continued the 
struggle. She found that since the days when she had 
made a successful appearance, other girls and men had 
appeared on the field, and many of them with consid- 
erable talent, and many more with considerable in- 
fluence. 

"Given a certain technical proficiency," the agent, 
who was something of a cynic, had said, ' ' and there is n 't 
one person in five hundred who knows the difference 
between a great performance and a good performance. 
After that it 's all a question of push, luck, and 
influence." 

At the same time he strongly advised her not to ad- 
vertise for pupils. 

"If you once do that, you 're labeled as a teacher. 
You go down the sink." 

"Well, what shall I do?" she asked. 

"Try another tour abroad — Germany, Holland or the 
States," he suggested. 

But in these cases it meant another outlay of money 
she did not feel justified in speculating with. "You are 
a fool, ' ' some one said to her one day. ' ' Why don 't you 



TUB KETURN 315 

let the man pay for the keep and education of the chil- 
dren? They 're his. He 's responsible. He 's got the 
money, and he 's quite willing to." But against this 
idea she fought tooth and nail. Neither could she be 
reasonable about it even to herself. She felt that if she 
kept the children she would to an extent justify herself, 
it would be a sop to her pride. It was strange that, in 
spite of her sordid upbringing, this w^as the first time 
that she had been seriously up against material condi- 
tions. She hated and despised them, and would not 
acknowledge them her master. 

"None of these things shall make a slave of me," she 
thought. 

But the struggle was long and bitter. At the end of 
the year the eight hundred pounds that she possessed 
had been reduced to one hundred and fifty, and there 
were many bills owing. Yet she surprised many people 
with her youthfulness and virility and her eyes glowing 
with the light of battle. 

One evening after she had returned from the school 
in Bucks, Sir Philip called on her. She was tired out 
with her day, but after she had washed and changed her 
frock she came into the drawing-room looking keen and 
well. He stepped forward and held her hand. After 
the usual greetings, he said : 

"What is your secret, dear friend?" 

She looked at him astonished. "Secret?" she asked. 

"Yes," he answered. "Everything conspires to 
crush you, but you look younger every day. It is as 
though you had discovered the elixir of life's troubles. 
Please tell me the secret." 

She smiled. "I 'm glad you don't think I look too 



316 OLGA BARBEL 

bothered," she said. ''I am, though. It 's a wretched 
world ! ' ' She stood by the piano, and her looks belied 
her words. 

Sir Philip seemed curiously nervous and he fumbled 
with his beard. 

"I am desperately ambitious," he said at last. ''I 
hardly know how to express to you my thoughts. You 
are so young, so independent, so beautiful. But the 
time comes when these things are — how shall we say it? 
— less evocative of success. It may become more dif- 
ficult. These two boys must go to school. They must 
go into the world and have careers. I am desirous to 
make this easier of accomplishment for you, and yet I 
would not for the world offend you." 

"Ah!" Olga shuddered slightly. These ideas had 
occurred to her on many an occasion. Schools! 
Careers! How on earth was she going to provide 
schools and careers for her boys? And as she became 
older it would become increasingly difficult. She knew 
this, but she would not allow herself to think about it. 

"How could you help me?" she said, and as she said 
it it flashed through her mind that it was the question 
Montague had put to her. And it occurred to her at 
the same moment that whereas her offer had been put 
to Montague in a material sense, he had accepted it in 
a spiritual sense. She was so concerned with the con- 
sideration of this strange fact that for the moment she 
hardly grasped what Sir Philip's reply was. When she 
did grasp it, she turned from him and gazed at the lamp. 
He had said: 

"Perhaps I could help you more if you would consent 
to become my wife." 



THE RETURN 317 

The proposal was so unexpected that it was some mo- 
ments before she could grasp its significance. Then she 
turned and looked at hira. Her first thought was, *'I 
must not be cruel to him." He was so kind, so gentle- 
manly, so "safe." She liked him, she would not hurt 
him for the world. Tears came to her eyes and she said : 

"Oh, please, Sir Philip, you are so kind. ... I have 
so few friends. I don't think I could marry you, but 
please forgive me. I don't want to lose you." 

He jumped up and took her hand. "There! there!" 
he said. "It is I who must ask for forgiveness. I am 
old—" 

"No, no, it 's not that," she said quickly. "You 're 
not old. I am tired to-night. I cannot think very 
clearly." 

He drew his heels together like a fencer, then bowed 
and kissed her hands. 

"I shall always remain your good servant and your 
friend," he said, and he smiled with the expression of a 
man who was accustomed to measure time and space in 
indefinite terms. "If not in this reincarnation, then in 
the next," a cold-blooded interpreter might have read 
it. But Olga suddenly ceased to consider his expression 
at all. Strange forces were at work within her. She 
was too moved to thank him for imderstanding and for 
treating her wayward refusal in the grand manner. 

When he had departed, she went to her bedroom and 
looked at herself in the glass. "Why had he talked of a 
secret? Her eyes were flushed with excitement. It 
was true — she was still a young woman. She noticed 
the curves of her neck and shoulders and bosom. She 
drew a shawl round her shoulders and crept into the 



318 OLGA BARDEL 

next room, and peeped at the two boys peacefully sleep- 
ing. Then she returned to her room and opened the 
window. It was February. In a few months the spring 
would be here. Had she a secret ? Had n 't every one 
a secret when they felt the warm night wind upon their 
temples? Was not Night, the mother of all secrets, 
already at work among the rustling foliage of the gar- 
den? She knew at that moment that from the hour 
when she had arrived home and found the two notes in 
the dining-room, that she had had a secret that had 
buoyed her up through those trying days. Perhaps it 
was sub-conscious, or it presented so dazzling a vision 
that she had not dared to give it substance in her 
thoughts. But to-night it laughed at her out of the 
whispering leaves. "You have been acting, playing a 
part," it seemed to say. "You are capricious, like all 
women — and men too, for that matter. Why not be 
honest with yourself?" 

She got into bed and turned out the light. She had 
forgotten about the proposal of Sir Philip by this time, 
but before she went to sleep she made a definite reso- 
lution. 

And as she turned restlessly upon her pillow, she 
muttered : 

"To-morrow, to-morrow, to-morrow!" 



CHAPTER IX 

THE SANCTUARY OP PORCELAIN 

NEVERTHELESS her resolution did not take 
effect on the morrow, for early in the morning 
the nurse came in to say that both the chil- 
dren were feverish. A doctor was called in, and pro- 
nounced the fact that they were suffering from measles. 
Immediately everything had to be reconsidered. Her 
work had to be given up, and she shared with the nurse 
the privilege of nursing them. The youngest boy was 
very ill, and caused a lot of anxiety. It was many days 
before he was considered safe ; and then it was six weeks 
before they were both free, and at the end of that time 
she was very run down herself. The doctor said that 
a change for all of them was essential. Sir Philip wrote 
offering her the use of a house he owned near Broad- 
stairs, and after a good deal of misgiving, she accepted 
it. 

It was nearly the end of April when they returned 
to London, and Olga's mind was filled with resolutions 
of drastic economies. The nurse would have to go, and 
she and the "cook-general" would have to manage the 
household on their own. Expenses in every way would 
have to be cut down. The future was not roseate, and 
yet when she went out into the little garden on that first 
morning of the return her heart was singing. 

319 



320 OLGA BARDEL" 

*'I will go to-morrow," she said to herself. 

She passed a restless night, on the borderland of 
dreams which were so beautiful that in her waking mo- 
ments she dare not contemplate them. 

"It is madness," she thought as these recurring 
images kept passing before her. 

In the morning she dressed herself with slow but 
deliberate cunning. She was conscious of looking her 
best when ultimately she kissed the children, and went 
forth to "do a little shopping in town." 

It was a glorious day, clear and with light clouds high 
up in the heavens, and a warm wind. She took a 'bus 
to Portland Eoad and walked. 

"No more taxis for me," she said to herself, and she 
enjoyed the rhythmic movement of swinging along the 
broad pavement of Portland Place. As she approached 
the turning where the studio was, she felt suddenly ter- 
ribly nervous and self-conscious. 

"What on earth am I doing?" she thought. "Why 
am I coming ? What will he think of me ? " 

Her action seemed so blatant and importunate that 
for a moment she hesitated as to whether she had not 
better return. She arrived in front of the studio and 
stared at the wrought-iron hanging bell. She stood 
there for some moments looking up and down the street, 
her heart beating rapidly. Suddenly she thought: 

"How ridiculous of me! Of course he won't be here 
now ; he will have moved, gone away probably forever ! ' ' 

She felt so convinced about this that her nerves were 
to some extent calmed, and she rang the bell. In a 
few moments a man opened the door. 

"Can you tell me if Mr. John Braille is living here?" 



THE SANCTUARY OF PORCELAIN 321 

she asked quite calmly. She knew perfectly well that 
the man would shake his head and say, "No, madame," 
and so indeed he did. 

"Do you happen to know where he lives?" she asked. 

The man stared at her, and said, "I '11 ask Mr. Gal- 
rush, madame," 

He disappeared, and Olga stood trembling inside the 
entrance. Memories and associations were pulling at 
her heart-strings. 

"What a fool I am! what a fool I am!" she kept 
thinking. Presently a dark Jewish-looking painter 
appeared. He looked her up and down rapidly, and 
said: 

"Good morning. I 'm afraid I don't know where Mr. 
Braille went to. He left here about two years ago. I 
think he went to Rome, but I 'm not sure whether he 's 
there now." 

"Oh!" said Olga. "I 'm sorry to have disturbed you. 
I presume you don't happen to know the address he 
went to in Rome?" 

The dark painter looked at her closely, and then he 
said: 

"Will you come in a moment? I '11 look in my 
bureau. I may have an address." 

"It 's very kind of you," she answered, and stepped 
through into the studio. He showed her to a chair and 
rummaged among some papers. She looked round the 
room. It was the same dear room, and yet how dif- 
ferent ! All the glory and dignity seemed to have 
departed. When Braille lived there there seemed to be 
nothing in the studio but the pifture he was working 
on, in any case nothing that caught the eye. But this 



322 OLGA BAEDEL 

little dark gentleman had packed the walls from floor 
to ceiling with his bright and meretricious paintings. 
They were mostly paintings of lovers in Napoleonic cos- 
tumes posturing in sentimental attitudes in neat gardens. 

When Olga beheld this display of redundant eroti- 
cism, she felt a wild and unreasonable dislike of the little 
painter. Braille's studio! Hallowed by the memory 
of him! What right had this prosperous-looking little 
picture merchant to profane the shades with his maudlin 
art ? In the very spot where Braille had stood with his 
eye-shade on his temples gazing at her with fierce con- 
centration, now reposed a large roll-top desk from the 
corner of which trailed a wreath of smoke from a half- 
smoked cigar! The fireplace against which she had so 
often seen the tall erect figure with the head thrown back 
and the eyes fixed upon her wistfully and boyishly, had 
been disfigured by a large new anthracite stove. There 
was the throne where she had sat, where a new world 
had awakened within her, now occupied by a lay figure 
in directoire dress. Mr. Galrush was talking to her. 
He seemed inclined to be garrulous and affable, perhaps 
a little too affable even for one who had the audacity 
to desecrate a high temple. She could not listen to him, 
for her heart was aching so. His face suddenly ap- 
peared before her, and his voice at last insisted: 

" It is the only address I can find— the Villa Cordone, 
Rome. ' ' 

"Ah! thank you; it is very kind." 

"Is there nothing else I can do?" He was smiling, 
his fine teeth gleaming beneath his dark mustache. She 
could not answer. Her eye alighted on a certain corner 
of the throne. It was the spot where she had stooped 



THE SANCTUARY OF PORCELAIN 323 

to tie her shoe-lace, Iler silence did not seem to subdue 
the little man. He suddenly blinked at her and said : 

"Are you interested in Art?" and he glanced com- 
prehensively round the room. She suddenly felt that 
if he started showing her his pictures she would lose all 
control of herself. She would cry, or strike him, or do 
something equally as unreasonable. She gasped and 
looked at the card, and said in a desperate manner: 

"No, I 'm afraid I 'm not," and she almost ran to 
the door. The little man followed her, and she kept 
saying, "Thank you so much! It's so kind!" She did 
not notice the hand he held out to her when she got 
there, and she ran up the street and hailed a cab. In 
the cab on the way home she became calmer. 

"How ridiculous I am!" she thought. "I knew he 
would n 't be there ! But he must be — somewhere. Per- 
haps here in London!" Nevertheless she wished she 
had n't gone. The memory of that throne disturbed her, 
and the jarritig self-satisfaction of the little painter. 
In the meantime she must set to work. She had a great 
uphill task before her. The boys were growing up. 
Richard already should be at school, or should be getting 
better education than she could give him. She felt 
annoyed at having taken the cab. 

"This sort of thing must stop," she said to herself. 

On her return home she set to work once more to get 
her affairs under control. Her idea of mathematics was 
deplorable. She could not estimate her income or her 
expenditure. Bills accumulated, and she paid them 
when she could. The illness of the boys and the conse- 
quent loss of work and expenses in connection with the 
illness soon put her in a desperate position. But she 



324 OLGA BARDEL 

did not realize it until two months later, when she dis- 
covered that her fees from the school where she taught 
did not amount to enough to pay the rent and the rates, 
and she had no more. Even then she would not acknowl- 
edge that it was a matter to cause serious heartburning. 
She did the obvious thing. She went to Sir Philip and 
borrowed fifty pounds from him. He lent it to her with 
alacrity and showed a nice sense of tact and thought- 
fulness over the transaction. It did not occur to her to 
be in any way a compromising action. It was a natural 
thing to do. Sir Philip had plenty, and she had none. 
If the circumstances had been reversed, she would not 
have hesitated for a second to do likewise. 

In coping with overpowering domestic difficulties two 
years passed away. At the end of that time she dis- 
covered, one morning, on looking through her accounts, 
that she owed Sir Philip eight hundred pounds! And 
Richard was now twelve and should be sent to a good 
school. She had passed through many vicissitudes. She 
occasionally got engagements, but the fees were small. 
She went on a tour in Germany, Holland, and Scandi- 
navia, but after a great success in these countries, the 
agent disappeared with all her money, and she could 
not trace him. Her pupils were irregular and inter- 
mittent, but they were her chief means of support. And 
then one day the youngest boy, Cedric, became very ill 
and developed appendicitis, and an operation became 
necessary. 

They were terrifying days, and the borrowing of fifty 
pounds from Sir Philip to pay for the operation was 
only the least of the evils. 



THE SANCTUARY OF PORCELAIN 325 

In the meantime she had written two letters to John 
Braille and each of them had been returned "Gone 
away." Neither did the G'uildefords seem to know of 
his whereabouts, though the boy jMcCartney announced 
one day that he believed that Braille was in Algeria, 
"painting sand." She felt convinced of one thing — 
Braille did not know. He had not heard of her tragic 
episode or he would have come to her. And every day 
youth and life were slipping away. Surely, surely one 
day she would see him standing there on the rug by the 
fire. He would say, "I did not know. Good heavens! 
how we have wasted these years!" That was her 
secret. She would sit alone in the evening and knit or 
read when the boys were in bed, and listen alertly. She 
had the idea that he would come in the evening or at 
some mad hour of the night, suddenly and dynamically, 
and cry out, "I did not know. Forgive me!" She 
could almost hear the sound of his voice. Ah, God ! how 
her heart was bursting to tell him — everything — all that 
had happened since he went away, all that she had felt 
and thought, and the thousand things she dare not feel 
or think. Iler dear secret ! Without it she would have 
died. 

One day at Sir Philip's she heard two men discussing 
Art, and one said : 

"By the way, there 's a very good Braille at the Fine 
Arts — a new one I think — an Arab sheikh. One of the 
finest he 's done." 

"Oh!" drawled the other man. "Is that so? Who 
was it told me that they thought they saw Braille in 
town the other day?" 

The first man showed little interest in this query and 



326 OLGA BAKDEL 

changed the subject, but Olga's heart beat rapidly. On 
the following afternoon she hurried through two lessons 
she had to give, and went down to Bond Street. She 
had little difficulty in spotting the "Braille" in the 
gallery. It seemed to stand apart — a Triton among 
minnows — a virile, forceful painting of the Sheikh 
Raman al Elin. She looked at it breathlessly and felt 
irritated by the presence of half a dozen other people 
round the canvas discussing it in languid tones. Having 
drunk her fill of its convincing beauty, she went to the 
secretary's office and interviewed a young lady secre- 
tary. 

"Excuse me," she said, "but do you happen to know 
whether Mr. Braille is in town, and what his address 
is?" 

The young lady looked at her nonchalantly, and 
turned up a book. At that moment a large man in a 
silk hat, who had been standing by the telephone, came 
forward and smiled. He was evidently an official of 
some importance. He said : 

"Yes, madam, I can tell you about Mr. Braille. He 
has been in town for a week, but he left last night for 
India — with his wife," 

Olga looked at him, and then turned her head quickly. 
She had a feeling that she was going to faint. She 
stumbled towards the door. She was conscious of the 
large man following her and saying: 

"We can communicate with him, madam, if you wish. 
Cairns Hotel, Bombay — or we can telegraph to Mar- 
seilles or Alexandria." 

She managed to say, "No, no, don't trouble, thank 
you," and got out into the passage. But when she 



THE SANCTUARY OF PORCELAIN 327 

arrived there, she did faint. It was a very momentary 
business, and two people and the manager came running 
up. She soon pulled herself together aod they gave her 
smelling-salts and water. She kept repeating: 

* ' How stupid of me ! Thank you so much . . . please 
don't bother!" 

The manager insisted on putting her in a cab, and 
she was grateful for the attention. It was a strange 
thing that on the w^ay home her mind kept recurring to 
her husband. She felt weak and ill, and she yearned 
for his arms around her. There were very few moments 
when she had allowed herself to feel this, but at this 
hour the call was irresistible. It was as though some- 
thing had snapped within her and she were alone, drift- 
ing helplesslj^ through the miasma of a febrile world. 
She had fought hard all her life for something within 
her, something tremendous and worth fighting for, and 
then when the large man said, "He went off last night 
to India — with his wife, ' ' it seemed as though the thing, 
whatever it was, had never been worth fighting for, as 
though it didn't matter. What was it she had been 
fighting for? "Nothing will ever matter again," she 
thought. People were drifting through the streets, the 
same people who had drifted on the night when she went 
down and met Irene and went to the cafe. The drone 
of London ! How horrible it was ! She felt a desire to 
drown herself in it. How splendid to be that third 
woman who was with Irene, who "loved everything too 
much!" She would like to get out and walk through 
the streets and speak to people like that. Perhaps they 
found some crude satisfaction in their sordid life. If 
only for a time — But for her, what was there? She 



328 OLGA BARDEL 

knew that if she got out of the cab she would be too tired 
to walk. She would probably faint again. She noticed 
a bearded and wretched man crawling along the gutter, 
with his eyes on the ground; occasionally he stooped 
and picked up a cigarette end. His face and figure were 
wasted with disease. She cried softly to herself for pity 
of him. If there were a God, how cruel were His mani- 
festations of power. Wliy did He not destroy these at 
once and forever ? "Was this not better than the eternal 
drone of remorse and despair? All around her was 
ugliness, cruelty, and terror. And yet to that hour she 
had believed! Ah, God! she knew now it was all a 
single-minded, selfish love of hers, something as rank as 
the weeds around her. She was as bad as the vilest, 
as bad as Uncle Grubhofer had painted her. "One of 
Nathan's children," "fit for the prisons and brothels," 
he had said. She had yearned for her lover. She would 
have gone to him immediately and unreservedly at any 
moment that he had called her, either during her mar- 
ried life or after the divorce. She would have left every- 
thing — her husband, her children, her honor, her work. 
She would have flung them aside and have followed him 
barefoot through the world. This was her "secret"; 
this it was that through all the travail of those days had 
kept her foot light, her eye serene, her brow unclouded. 
And suddenly this dream was shattered and all around 
her were the sordid streets. Why did they go on living, 
all these people? Many were too old to hug the illusions 
that had buoyed her up, many were broken in their 
youth. Was there a spirit of the hive like bees had, 
something that drugged their personal desires and drove 
them irresistibly on to an unknown end? 



THE SANCTUARY OF PORCELAIN 329 

As the cab was creeping up through the darkness of 
Haverstock Hill, she suddenly said, "Please God, help 
me to serve some purpose!" and then she cried again, 
and shivered in the corner of the cab. She felt calmer 
after that, and peered out into the dim streets. 

Suddenly her mind wandered back to Prague, and she 
thought of the heavily built American boy — Irwin Cul- 
lum. What was it he had said to her? Something 
about ideas. Ah! yes. ''Everything is illusion except 
ideas." She pondered on this. He had said that the 
thought was comforting. And he talked of his ambi- 
tions. He was going back to San Martino, ''a bunch of 
wooden shacks nestling in a valley." And he had said, 
"Don't you think I can be ambitious there?" 

It was nice to think of Irwin Cullum being ambitious 
in his obscure town. There must be thousands of people 
like that, working out their destiny in lonely places, 
sacrificing themselves for some purpose, living for 
"ideas." 

When she entered the little house she heard the maid- 
of-all-w^ork quarreling with a charwoman in the kitchen. 
It was very dark. On the stairs she heard the laughter 
of the boys in a room they played in in the front of the 
house — fresh, gay, irresponsible laughter. 

"I would have betrayed them," she thought. She 
crept into the bedroom quietly and locked the door. 
Then she lay on the bed in the darkness and wept. 
After a time she bathed her eyes and went down. The 
boys wanted their supper. The maid-of-all-work was 
full of complaints. Many household matters had been 
neglected and forgotten. On the mantelpiece were bills 
and a letter from a rich pupil saying that after this term 



330 OLGA BARDEL 

she would not be able to continue her lessons. The boys 
squabbled at supper-time, and Richard pushed Cedric 
off his chair and he fell down and cut his temple. It 
was late before the turmoil of the little house subsided, 
and when at last the boys were put to bed and the maid 
pacified, she sat alone in the little sitting-room. On the 
piano she noticed a layer of dust. She got up with the 
idea of removing this disfigurement; then something 
impelled her to resume her seat. In front of her was a 
pile of bills and a letter from the master of the private 
school where Richard attended, saying that "he con- 
sidered him a boy of considerable promise," and sug- 
gesting that he should take up certain subjects with the 
idea of entering for a scholarship at a well-known college. 
She heard the dreary voice of the maid humming in the 
kitchen, and all the time her eyes were fixed upon the 
dust of the piano. Suddenly she got up and made a 
mark with her thumb on the dust, as though she were 
doubting its reality. Then she sat there a long time 
thinking. After a while she lighted a candle and went 
up the stairs quietly, and went into the boys' room. 
They were sleeping peacefully, their petty squabbles for- 
gotten, their red, healthy cheeks burrowing into the 
pillow. She listened to their regular breathing for some 
time, as though it meant much to her, and then with her 
eyes glistening she returned to the sitting-room. She 
sat for a moment on the edge of a chair, and looked into 
the grate. 

"It is finished," she said at last, and started at the 
sound of her own voice. Then she turned out the light 
and went into the hall, where she had left her hat and 



THE SANCTUARY OF PORCELAIN 331 

cloak. A desire seemed to come to her to act quickly, 
as though she were in a terror of reaction. She put on 
her hat and cloak and clutched the latch-key and went 
out. She walked quickly through several streets and 
took a turning that led up to the heath. She found her 
way through the gorse and presently arrived at the door 
of Sir Philip's house. She rang the bell. It was now 
half-past ten. A man-servant opened the door. He 
knew her by sight and bowed her in. 

"Is Sir Philip in?" she asked. 

"Yes, madame," he answered. 

"Alone?" 

"Yes, madame." 

She shuddered at this answer, as though she were half 
hoping it would be in the negative, but she fixed her 
eyes on the ground and followed him. 

Sir Philip was sitting alone in the black and white 
marble hall. He had on some gold pince-nez and was 
examining some photogravures of Japanese porcelain. 
He rose as she entered and the man retired. 

"This is indeed delightful of you," he said when they 
were alone. A powerful reading-lamp illumined the 
photogravures, but the rest of the room was dim, 
lighted only through the green shade on the lamp. He 
did not turn on more light, for he knew she liked it like 
this. He also knew at a glance that she came with some 
momentous purpose. She conveyed to him some tele- 
pathic excitement, stirring his pulses strangely. He 
pulled a chair into a more comfortable position facing 
the fire, and took her cloak from her. He then took a 
seat opposite to her and sat there looking at her like a 



332 OLGA BARDEL 

large Newfoundland dog. She seemed to be trying to 
frame a sentence but she could not succeed. At last, to 
ease the situation, he remarked : 

"It is a thousand pities that in this dear land of ours 
we have not acquired the habit which is so charming 
in Bohemia of making the petite visite after dinner. It 
is so much more sympathetic a time than in the raw 
hours of the afternoon. ]\Iay I show you these excellent 
photogravures of some Kyoto ware 1 ' ' 

This speech seemed to release something in Olga, and 
she said rapidly : 

"Sir Philip, I can't look at those to-night. I have 
something more urgent to say to you. I — " 

She paused, and Sir Philip looked at her and slowly 
pulled his beard. Then he said: 

"My dear lady, I do not want you to qualify your 
visit, that is all. For the rest, you know that I am ever 
tout a fait a votre service/' and he shrugged his shoul- 
ders and waved his hands comprehensively. Then he 
smiled kindly and said : 

"Tell me then, dear friend, in what way I may serve 
you?" 

Olga looked at the fire, and then in a very low voice 
she answered : 

"You may make me your wife." 

There was a silence, broken only by the sound of the 
fountain playing in the adjoining courtyard. Olga 
continued gazing at the fire. She knew that his eyes 
were fixed on her and he was leaning forward as though 
unable to grasp the full significance of her statement. 
He started as though about to spring upon her, and 
then held himself back. He was trembling, but at last 



THE SANCTUARY OF TORCELAIN 333 

he said, in a voice that seemed almost charged with 
tears : 

"Olga! is this true?" He stretched out and took her 
hand. She gave it, and tears streamed down her cheeks. 
Then she broke out and spoke in rapid, disjointed sen- 
tences. 

"Don't misunderstand me, Sir Philip. You must 
think I 'm shameless. You have asked me, and I have 
come to you." 

"My dear . . . my dear," he broke in. 

"No, no," she cried excitedly. "We must understand 
each other first. You have asked me to be your wife, 
and I — accept. I will be your wife. I will — fulfil my 
part of the contract. You understand? In every way 
I will be your wife. But you know, you must know, it 's 
no question of love with me. I like you very much, you 
have been very kind, but I accept you because I 'm in 
great difficulty. I 'm thinking more of the boys than of 
myself. You will know what I mean. I mustn't be 
selfish, must I ? . . . Will you accept me on these terms ? 
I cannot do more. I cannot love you, but I will be your 
wife, I will be loyal to you. ... It seems dreadful to 
come to you like this. I am ashamed." 

He gripped her hands as though in a vise, and said 
earnestly : 

"Olga, I understand ... I understand, and I accept 
you. I will try and make you love me — " 

She struggled in his hands, and said : 

"Only, I want to make stipulations. Please forgive 
me ... I think you will understand. I don't want any 
honeymoon . . . nothing like that. Just to go on. I 
will come to you here, you see? I want to go on work- 



334 OLGA BARDEL 

ing, just doing things all the time. I will be your wife, 
only I 'm worried, do you understand ? I don 't want to 
stop and think about things a lot. Perhaps one day we 
can travel, only not yet. I want to stop here and just 
go on. Perhaps we can send the boys to school, and 
then . . . Oh, my dear friend, I feel I 'm being mean 
to you, but — " 

He pulled her to him and cried hoarsely : 

"I understand ... I understand." 

She allowed him to kiss her on the lips and she closed 
her eyes. Then she clutched the lapels of his coat and 
said: 

"Oh, may I go now? Go away for a few days . . . 
Then I will come back. "We will perhaps be married in 
a registry office, and then go on just as though — as 
though we had been married a long time, as though it 
were quite a normal thing ..." 



CHAPTER X 

THE FURTIVE LOVERS 

THE wife of Cemray, the Academician, was giv- 
ing a reception in honor of the visit of the 
famous French sculptor, Anton Vinas. The 
salons were crowded with luminaries from the artistic, 
social, and diplomatic world. Anton Vinas, a heavy, 
sensual-looking old man with a splendidly rugged head, 
was standing by the side of his hosts, and shaking hands 
with the guests as they were introduced to him. Sir 
Philip and Lady Ballater arrived rather late, and the 
room was very hot and crowded. Olga felt the pressure 
of the distinguished Frenchman's rather plump hand, 
and she was conscious of his approving glance that wan- 
dered from her face to her neck and shoulders. During 
these years she had indeed filled out, and though at that 
time only thirty-seven, she was beginning to develop that 
quality that people call ''matronliness." Neither was 
this quality entirely a physical one. It was a satisfac- 
tion to her among the many acquaintances she met at the 
reception to talk about "her boys," and to inform thera 
that Richard was leaving Harrow next term and going 
up to Oxford, and that Cedric played the violin "like 
an angel." And yet a close observer would have de- 
scribed Lady Ballater's normal expression as rather that 
of suppression than resignation. Her gray eyes were 

335 



336 OLGA BAEDEL 

calm and serene, but strange lights still flashed in their 
unusual depths. The social life appealed to her even less 
than it did at the time when she was married to Harry 
Streatham, although she was at that time an undoubted 
social success. Women adored her, and men made love 
to her with tireless reiteration. The years had given 
her a certain savoir faire and an ability to cope with 
difficult situations with sympathy and understanding. 
She still worked at the piano, but she only played in 
public for charity; her view being that otherwise she 
would be taking the fees of professional musicians Who 
had to earn their own living. All her sympathies were 
with the people who worked, and she had started a society 
for registering and helping music teachers. A young 
under-secretary wrote to Emma in Scotland (on govern- 
ment official notepaper), and described her at that time 
in the following terms: 

"I find your friend altogether adorable. She is the 
most beautiful person in the world. She moves with a 
curious and attractive grace. "When she looks at you 
you feel that nothing will ever matter again, and then 
when she speaks and smiles at you, you want it to matter 
ever so much. Her body is like a sounding-board of all 
the human emotions. She is charged with vivid intui- 
tions and impulses. I have never met any one so un- 
self-conscious, so quick to suffer and enjoy. Life is a 
tremendous business to her, torrential and overwhelm- 
ing. How on earth did she happen to get married to 
that — Chinese mandarin ? ' ' 

By which it may be observed that the young secre- 
tary's time and the government material should have 
been employed to more legitimate ends. 



THE FURTIVE LOVERS 337 

They wandered through the rooms, picking little scraps 
of conversation with people they knew. At last they 
worked their way back to the first room. It was very 
crowded, and she could not see the people near the door 
coming in, but she could hear the voice of the pompous 
butler announcing names with a sonorous dignity. For 
a moment she was alone and unattended. She stood 
against the wall and began to feel tired of the proceed- 
ings. She listened drowsily to the booming voice of the 
butler. Suddenly she started and almost cried out. Her 
agitation was caused solely by that voice. Could it be 
true ? Amidst the drone of many names it had suddenly 
announced : 

"Mr. John Braille." 

Three large people in front of her were drawling in 
affected voices about futurism. Her husband had his 
back to her, and was laughing, an unusual act for him. 
She felt a sudden irritation, and a desire to push all 
these people rudely out of the way and go toward the 
door. It couldn't be true! It couldn't be true! It 
must be some mistake. The voice must have said 
some other name, or she was dreaming. She wished she 
could see. How abnormally large all these people 
seemed ! 

She stood there some moments — afraid, and trying to 
analyze her fear. If it were he? "What then? And 
why was he alone? She tried to lull her agitated feel- 
ings. Even if it were he, it would only be natural. 
Perhaps his wife had a headache — or a child ? He would 
probably almost have forgotten her. They would meet 
and shake hands and pass on, and everything would be 
just the same as usual. 



338 OLGA BARDEL 

"You haven't been to see our new billiard-room yet, 
Lady Ballater." 

A red-faced man with a head shaped like a horse was 
grinning at her. lie was the director of an insurance 
company and reputed to be enormously wealthy. His 
wife and three grown-up daughters were at the recep- 
tion. She recollected having overheard some one say 
that "he was a cormorant with a penchant for married 
women." She muttered some excuse, and pushed her 
way into the background of an adjoining room that 
backed on to a conservatory. She still felt very fright- 
ened. Her eyes restlessly searched the room, and every 
one seemed intolerably platitudinous. Near the entrance 
to the conservatory a very old musical critic buttonholed 
her, and talked interminably about opera. He insisted 
on telling her the plot of a new German opera he had 
just heard in Leipzig, and describing the character of the 
music in detail. He was in the middle of the second act, 
and she remembered him saying: 

"And then the fiddles have a very attractive theme, 
that is taken up by the wood wind. It is perhaps a little 
suggestive of the Meister singer, and equally redun- 
dant." 

At that point she saw Braille. He was standing with 
his back to the wall, talking to a little man with curly 
hair and a monocle. His face was thinner than of yore 
but tanned by the sun, and the hair on his temples was 
quite gray. He looked straight at her, and his eyes 
glowed with the quiet light of understanding. She saw 
him apologizing to the little man and pushing his way 
through the crowd toward her. He had a stormy pass- 
age, buffeted and assailed by every one as he passed ; but 



THE FURTIVE LOVERS 339 

he kept his eyes fixed upon her, and came straight on. 
As he put out his hand to take hers, the musical critic 
was saying : 

"The overture of the third act is a remarkable piece 
of scoring. The sense of climax is very skilfully man- 
aged, but I must say that in my opinion — " 

Braille was holding her hand and looking into her 
eyes. She pulled him out of sound of the musical critic 's 
voice. The roar of conversation was so great that it was 
quite possible to hold an intimate conversation in the 
midst of it without the probability of being heard. 

He said, "I came to-night because some one told me 
you would be here." 

At the sound of his voice something seemed to con- 
tract within her, and for the moment she could not speak. 
She smiled at him, and her eyes were eloquent with 
amazement and delight. He continued: 

*' Yes, it is true. I know what you are thinking — I am 
a ghost! I died ten years ago. We are allowed some- 
times to revisit the glimpses of the moon." 

"Have you come back to finish the portrait?" she 
asked. 

A boyish light came into his eyes and he tilted his 
head in a manner she knew so well, and looked at her 
keenly and shook his head. 

"Ah! It was cruel of me to remember," she said, 
and added, "And next week my son goes to Oxford !" 

"Your implication is a perverse one," he answered. 
"I have not come back to finish the portrait because my 
original reason for not being able to do so still holds 
good." 

They looked at each other with shameless significance, 



340 OLGA BARDEL 

and a gentleman with shiny cheeks standing by the door 
asked a friend "who the hatchet-faced man flirting with 
Lady Ballater was." 

Suddenly they changed the timbre of their voices, and 
she whispered: 

' ' Tell me about your wife. ' ' 

Braille started, and she thought his lips became pale. 
He looked at her imploringly and answered : 

"I 've never had a wife." 

He thought for the moment she was going to faint, 
and he said: 

' ' May I meet you, Olga ? May I meet you and talk to 
you?" 

The crowd seemed suddenly noisier and she was con- 
scious of Sir Philip bringing up some one to introduce 
to her. She glanced round desperately and whispered : 

"Meet me — by the flagstaff on Hampstead Heath to- 
morrow at seven o'clock in the evening." 

He bowed and vanished. She impressed Lord Charles 
Wynsley, to whom her husband introduced her, as being 
"a perfect nincompoop. One of these damned women 
who say, 'Yes, yes,' and 'No, no.' Good Lord! why the 
hell did Sir Philip marry her ? Not a bad-looking piece 
of stuff, in a way. Would be pleasant for a week-end 
trip on the river, but marriage ! Pheugh ! Never marry 
out of your class, dear boy !" 

She feigned a headache after ten minutes' conversa- 
tion with Lord Charles, and begged her husband to take 
her home. She passed a turbulent night, rocking with 
alternate hopes and fears. On the morrow the day took 
on the nature of a fantastic dream. It was a gray day 
in April, and a warm wind was blowing from the south- 



THE FURTIVE LOVERS 341 

west. She had no recollection of how she got through 
the hours till seven o'clock; mostly by practising in fits 
and starts, and then going to the window and peering 
out. 

It was nearly dark when she arrived under the flag- 
staff. She was conscious of the presence of furtive lovers. 
People strolled about in couples and became lost on the 
heath. For the moment she regretted the place of the 
appointment; it seemed sordid and unromantic. 

"But after all," she thought, "why should I consider 
myself different from the others?" 

He was standing there, erect and solemn like an In- 
dian sentinel. She was conscious of him before she had 
seen him. He pressed both her hands and then walked 
a little way without speaking. She suddenly gripped his 
arm and said : 

"I am in a fantastic mood, my friend. . , . You must 
humor me. I told Sir Philip I was going out to dine 
with a girl friend. What shall we do?" 

She could see his eyes glow in the dim light, and she 
felt the pressure of his hands. 

"Let us walk," he said. 

They went down into a hollow and up again and passed 
by some fir-trees. There were many people strolling 
about, and sitting very close to each other on seats and 
on the grass, which must have been damp. The con- 
stant meeting with these people made them both self- 
conscious, and they laughed about it uneasily after a 
while. Suddenly, as they were going round the bend of 
a sandy hillock, two people left a seat that was almost 
hidden against a fence. 

"Let us sit here," said Olga, and she pulled him to- 



342 OLGA BARDEL 

ward the seat. ' ' You must remember that I was brought 
up in Canning Town," she added, by way of justifica- 
tion. 

They sat side by side. Braille prodding the sand with 
his stick. He seemed unable to speak. At last she 
laughed and put her arm on his shoulder. 

"Come," she said. "I have been so unhappy, so deso- 
late . . . Humor my one fantastic night ! ' ' 

"Ah!" he said with difficulty. "What must you 
think of me?" 

She could see the drawn look on his face, and she 
whispered : 

"What is it? Tell me." 

"You asked about my wife." He looked at her, and 
she could not answer, but she nodded her head, and 
tried to convey the feeling that all was right with the 
world if only he would tell her. 

"It would not be — you if you did not look at me like 
that, with forgiveness in your eyes, before you hear me, ' ' 
he said hoarsely. 

"Oh, my dear!" she suddenly exclaimed, "the only 
thing the world has taught me is that there is never 
anything to forgive. Tell me — your experiences, your 
desires, if you like, only don't talk about forgiveness. 
Let me be more to you than that." 

Braille started and seemed almost imperceptibly to 
hold himself back ; then he leant forward on his knees 
and peering at the ground, he said : 

"I want to tell you . . . everything exactly as it oc- 
curred to me. My father was a Puritan. He brought 
me up on a sort of Spartan system. I owe to him my 
strength and vigor of body and, I suppose, my moral 



THE FURTIVE LOVERS 343 

bias. lie did not believe in beauty; at least, not as an 
integral part of one. The only beauty he believed in was 
the beauty of the sea at night when the wind raged . . . 
I believed in that too ; I brought it to bear on my work. 
I sought truth in the most analytical manner, and tried 
to expose hypocrisies. I believed that the only issues 
worth fighting for were moral issues. I believed that one 
could lead one's life, if not divorced from all beauty, 
at least not in any way dependent upon it. One could 
take it in the way that one takes marmalade for break- 
fast. ... It is a curious thing that my meeting with 
you was not the cause of the sort of psychological up- 
heaval that I went through at that time — you were rather 
the apotheosis of certain changes that had been started 
by something else. Do you know what it was that started 
them ? — The Russian ballet at Covent Garden ! I went 
in there one night quite casually, and before I came away 
I knew that life would never be the same to me again. 
I had never seen beauty expressed with such meaning 
and poignance. It was incredibly beautiful, and it went 
right through me. And it was neither moral nor un- 
moral, but it spoke to me of things greater than morality, 
the stuff that the fibers of life are made from. You 
asked me my desires. I tell you, my desire became at 
that time to have my life colored by beauty. And then 
you came." 

Braille sighed, but he did not look at her, and he 
still prodded the ground with his stick. 

"You were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. 
You became to me the personification of the beauty of 
my dreams. Your image was always before me. Your 
eyes were between me and every action. I could not 



344 OLGA BARDEL 

work. I could not think coherently. And I was afraid. 
It was not only that you were a married woman ; it was 
something more than that. I desired you terribly. It 
was true that it was not only your body I desired, but 
I did desire your body. I was afraid of myself. If 
beauty were illusion ! I went out alone into the country 
and wrestled with this thing. I thought of my father. 
I felt like a Japanese — what are those chaps called? — 
Samurai communing with the spirit of his ancestors. 
And at that hour my father spoke with no uncertain 
voice. I knew it was no good. I went back to the studio 
in Langham Place. There hung your unfinished por- 
trait. This was going to be no chilling assertion of ab- 
stract truth. This was no 'Braille.' There was already 
about it something that frightened me. . . . You came 
again. And then — you remember the morning? Ah, 
God ! I felt I was writing you that note with my own 
blood. I dashed away from you like a frightened ani- 
mal, as so indeed I was. I went to Rome and Taormina, 
but I could not work. ... It was in Biskra, away out 
there in the desert, that the 'other thing' happened. I 
want to tell you about this, dear, all just exactly as it 
came about." 

Olga leant forward, watching him intently through 
her half-closed eyes. 

' ' I stayed out there in a small French hotel that had a 
roof garden from which one could see miles across the 
desert. I was very lonely there, and I could not work. 
The roof garden was my only joy. I used to sit there at 
night and watch the stars above the desert and breathe 
the warm air. It was amazingly beautiful. There were 
not more than half-a-dozen people in the hotel at that 



THE FURTIVE LOVERS 345 

time. But there was a Spanish woman — at least, she 
was half Spanish and lialf French, She was tall and 
dark and had splendid e}es. I did not notice her at iirst. 
I noticed no one. I wanted to be alone, utterly alone in 
this ocean of sand. But I noticed after a time that she 
was always watching me and getting in my way. She 
tried to make conversation, and I believe I was rude to 
her. I really don't know. I was very distracted, and 
the sight of her irritated me. Then one night I was 
sitting on the roof. It was a wonderful night and the 
moon was up. The air was laden with the perfume of 
the oleanders. Some Arabs were playing their tom- 
toms in the distance. It occurred to me that if I were 
in search of beauty I had at least discovered its setting. 
But my heart was aching for its central episode. Sud- 
denly the girl came on to the roof. She had on a white 
frock. She passed close by me, and I saw her dark eyes 
looking at me furtively. She left a trail of some strange 
scent, and passed behind a clump of palms. I knew that 
she was beautiful, beautiful in a madly impersonal way, 
like the desert or the mango trees. She fitted in to the 
great scheme of things. I sat there a long time think- 
ing. Beauty ! . . . The strange Arab music penetrated 
me. A procession of heavily laden camels came hurry- 
ing across the desert. Something kept saying to me, 
'The stars are fixed. For you — life and youth are slip- 
ping away.' On the morrow I felt more exhausted and 
sad. I wandered about and tried to paint. I passed the 
Spanish woman twice and on the second occasion I smiled 
at her. Three days and nights passed in this way. We 
said 'Good morning' and 'good night,' but nothing more. 
But I looked at her and gradually she moved me like a 



346 OLGA BARDEL 

narcotic. On the third night there was no moon, but 
the air was warmer. I went up to the roof garden in a 
peculiar fever of excitement, and waited. It was very 
dark. I sat there a long time. In the distance a 
woman was singing some melancholy dirge. Then sud- 
denly I saw the white dress appear and move slowly in 
my direction, pass by, and in the direction of the palms, 
leaving its trail of scent. I got up and followed her, 
and she turned. In the darkness I could just see her lazy 
eyes. We did not speak, not a word. I took her in my 
arms and kissed her silently on the lips. We went into 
the arbor enclosed by the palms . . . 

' ' I hired a caravan the next day, and we went away to- 
gether into the desert, attended by two Arabs. We lived 
there for three weeks. Ah, God ! the desolation of those 
days and nights! Except for the mad hours when I 
clutched her in my arms I was more lonely than ever. 
The beauty that I sought was like a mirage that laughed 
at me across the sands. One cannot transubstantiate 
the central stuff of life. I felt like an outcast, a social 
leper. And always your eyes were before me, your eyes 
and the eyes of my father. But what could I do ? I could 
not desert the woman after I had committed myself. She 
rallied me on my melancholy moods, and we went on to 
Algiers. From there we went to Nice and Bordighera, 
and then to Paris, and came over and spent a week in 
London. I fell into a state of moral apathy and just 
followed the woman about, doing as she bid me. For 
some reason we started out for India, but in Paris my 
immediate troubles were solved for me, for she left me to 
go and live with the son of a French deputy. She was 
quite frank about it. She said I had attracted her at 



THE FURTIVE LOVERS 347 

first, but she had learnt to detest me. We parted quite 
good friends. . . . 

"You may be surprised to know what I did next. I 
went to a town where I should not be likely to be known. 
I went to Lyons, and I lived in the poorest quarter of the 
town. I had suffered bitterly, and I felt an overwhelm- 
ing desire to live among others who suffered. I gave up 
painting and I worked amongst the poorest of the poor. 
I lived in one room and did odd jobs for people. I found 
in the meanness and wretchedness of those streets some- 
thing ennobling, and in the lives of the downtrodden 
something inspiring. I lived there nearly a year, and 
gradually my virility returned to me. My conception of 
beauty became mellowed. I found the salvation of suf- 
fering ..." 

Olga leaned forward and touched his arm, and her 
eyes dilated. 

"You have found that too!" she said in a low voice. 
They gazed at each other for some time, and then sat 
apart, looking up at the sky. At last she said : 
"Why did you go to the reception to see me?" 
"Partly caprice," he answered; "but I wanted one 
day to tell you everything." 

"Where were you at the time of my divorce?" 
"At Algiers. I did not hear about it till you were 
married to Ballater." 

"And when you came to London, I missed you at the 
gallery by a few hours." 

They sat silent; then Olga said bitterly: 
"The gods have not been very kind to you and me." 
There was another pause, during which she feasted her 
eyes on his drawn face. Suddenly she stood up in front 



348 OLGA BARDEL 

of him and held out both her hands. He took them, and 
rose also. She went close up to him and spoke quickly : 

"Listen, dear. I too am lonely. I don't Tcnow about 
all these things — morality and so on. I only know that 
in my life I have had the desire to do good, to help those 
that suffer, to be kind. I want to be of some service, 
but for the rest, I know nothing. I cannot understand 
that the world should talk of failure and success when 
there should only be 'understanding.' I had my wan- 
der-dream of passion, like you had. I too suffered bit- 
terly. I too looked between the eyes of the poor and 
downcast." 

Her face was very close to his and her cheeks were 
wet with tears. Suddenly she cried out : 

"I cannot understand. I am sure of nothing. But I 
will tell you one thing. ' ' 

''What is it?" he said hoarsely. 

* ' If you would take me, I would come with you now — 
anywhere, to the ends of the earth ! ' ' 

Braille started and his lips trembled. 

"Olga!" he gasped. "I didn't come to tempt you." 

"But I want you to tempt me. It is the only thing I 
understand, the only thing I am sure of — my love! I 
have been twice a wife, but I would come and be your 
mistress. Do you understand what I 'm saying? I say 
it 's the only thing I 'm sure of. I possess you already, 
I wear you in my heart day and night. What is the dif- 
ference between that and what I ask? I care for noth- 
ing else. I gave my word of honor I would be loyal to 
my husband, but I have already broken that vow in my 
heart. I would sacrifice my honor for you, give you 
everything I possess, die for you ! Oh, my dear, I know 



THE FURTIVE LOVERS 340 

you understand me, and that is more to me than all the 
world. ' ' 

They stood there held fast by the vibrant communion 
of their eyes. Suddenly he kissed her damp cheek, and 
then his arms were around her, and their lips met. She 
gave a little cry like a wounded animal, and hung limply 
in his arras, with her eyes closed. He kissed her again 
and again. A few paces away he heard people moving. 

' ' Good God ! " he muttered. ' ' What are we doing ! ' ' 

"We 're amidst the furtive lovers," she whispered, and 
she laughed weakly. He thought she was going to faint, 
and he helped her to a seat. Presently she said : 

"This is madness! Oh, my dear, forgive me." 

And Braille said : 

"No, you are right. I should detest that more than 
anything — to be furtive. To carry on secret assigna- 
tions, to always feel ashamed. You are right. Every- 
thing vital has already happened between us. Any other 
action would be a sham. ]\Iy dear, I too wear you in 
my heart, and I shall claim you." 

He kissed her again, and they moved away from the 
seat. She noticed that his coat was wet. And indeed a 
fine rain had been falling for nearly an hour. They 
stumbled across the heath in silence, he holding her 
arm. 

"I believe I 'm very hungry," she said suddenly. He 
laughed gaily, and looked at his watch by the light of a 
match. It was nine o'clock. They went to an hotel on 
the top of the heath, and caused considerable surprise 
by asking if it were possible to have dinner. The man- 
agement was shocked and annoyed at this un-English 
request. After a lot of persuasion, however, they con- 



350 OLGA BARDEL 

sented to give them some cold roast beef and pickles, 
with bread and cheese, in the coffee-room. They had 
the coffee-room to themselves, and they ate their beef 
and cheese, tremulously observant of each other. When 
the meal was finished, he said : 

' ' When will you come to me ? " 

She thought for a moment, and answered : 

* ' To-morrow. ' ' 

She blushed and pushed her hair back with a rapid 
little motion of the back of the hand, and rose quickly. 
As they walked along the Spaniards Road, a regiment of 
boys passed with a drum-and-fife band. They were sing- 
ing and waving their hats. Before they had passed Olga 
stopped suddenly and put her hand to her heart. Braille 
held her firmly and said: 

"What is it, dear?" 

She laughed uneasily, and answered : 

' ' Oh, it 's nothing ! How silly of me ! Only — some 
of those boys reminded me of my Richard. ' ' 

The drum-and-fife band blared its gay and catching 
melody and the boys cheered as they passed the White- 
stone pond. When the music had almost died away in 
the distance, Olga said: 

' ' Will you put me into a cab, dear ? ' ' 

They had to walk a little further before they found 
one, and they were both strangely silent. When the 
cab was discovered and she had been installed. Braille 
stood by the door and pressed her hand : 

"To-morrow, then, at my rooms, at three o'clock." 

"Yes, yes," she gasped in the faintest whisper. "To- 
morrow ! ' ' 



CHAPTER XI 

TETB LETTER 

BRAILLE stood for a long time at the spot where 
the cab had departed. He watched its scarlet 
rear-light flicker down the hill, and disappear. 

"She has gone," he thought. "It is all over — the 
dream has vanished." 

He walked a little way along the road and then dived 
down into the bracken. He walked rapidly through the 
rain, his jaw set with a grim determination. He tried 
to find the seat where they had sat before supper; but 
he missed it, and wandered on through the dark. "To- 
morrow morning," he thought, "there will be a letter 
from her. She will have had time to see things 
clearer ... It will be all over." 

It was getting late, and the furtive lovers had de- 
parted. He seemed to be alone on the heath. It was 
very cold. He looked toward the west where the drum- 
and-fife band had passed. 

"The passing of youth!" he suddenly exclaimed to 
himself, and laughed bitterly. And then he thought, 
"If I did not know that she would write to-night, I 
should write myself. But she shall have the credit of— 
'seeing clear'! It is all I have to give her." He strode 
on through the damp grass. 

It was five o'clock in the morning when he let himself 

351 



352 OLGA BARDEL 

in at his rooms in Gyves Court. He was wet through. 
He had a bath and went to bed. But he did not sleep. 
He kept on visualizing the letter that would arrive at 
eight o'clock. At seven his man called him and brought 
a cup of tea. He drank it, and put on a dressing-gown, 
and sat up in bed waiting for the letter. It seemed an 
interminable time till the post came. At last he heard 
the click of the box and the sharp rat-tat. He nearly 
leapt out of bed and rushed for it, but some ingrained 
instinct kept him fixed to the bed. He smiled faintly 
when he heard the slow ponderous steps of Robeson com- 
ing along the passage to take the letter out of the box. 

' ' The fool ! " he thought. " If he only knew ! ' ' 

Listening to the languid movements of Robeson taking 
the letters out of the box, and going slowly to the dining- 
room to fetch a silver tray, the story flashed through his 
mind of the man who was condemned to death, but the 
date and hour of his death were kept from him. He 
suffered unspeakable agonies of terror till suddenly one 
day, in a flash, he realized that after all his fate was only 
that of the rest of humanity ! 

"After all," thought Braille, "it will make no dif- 
ference. I should have written if she hadn't." 

Robeson tapped on the door with well-modulated re- 
straint. He entered, and walked slowly towards the bed, 
holding out the tray. Braille's eyes were glued on the 
letter. There it was; the top one! He took it in his 
hand, and Robeson said in his pensive voice : 

"Which suit will you wear to-day, sir? I 'm afraid 
you were caught in the rain last night." 

Braille looked at him calmly and said, "My blue one, 
Robeson. ' ' 



THE LETTER 3o3 

Robeson went with incredible deliberation to the ward- 
robe, lie sighed, and took down the suit from its 
stretcher. He spread it out with a lingering affection. 
Then he returned to the wardrobe, and routed with a su- 
perb dignity among the drawers for shirt, pants, and col- 
lar. He took all these things and placed each one sepa- 
rately and lovingly in a convenient place for Braille to 
get at. And at the same time, he told Braille of a 
calamity that had happened to the lift-boy's mother. It 
was an involved and unpleasant story, an affair of de- 
ception and alcoholic excess. Braille looked at him with- 
out listening. He was almost mesmerized by the man's 
amazing deliberation. He held the letter in his hand, 
and kept turning it over. "When Robeson had finished 
the story, Braille said : 

"After all, Robeson, it won't make any difference, will 
it?" 

"I beg your pardon, sir?" exclaimed the faithful at- 
tendant. 

Braille looked at the letter and sighed. How ador- 
ably childish her writing was ! large and straggling, and 
full of character. He said peremptorily: 

"All right, Robeson, I can manage." 

"Very good, sir!" 

He was alone in the room, with the sheets of the letter 
trembling in his hand. He touched the sacred document 
with his lips, and read : 

Oh, my dear, if I had been taught to pray I would pray to- 
night that I might have the power to tell you what is in my 
heart. I somehow feel that you will expect this letter, that you 
will know all the time what I am going to say, as I believe I know 
what you are feeling. Oh, it was madness this dream of ours! 



354 OLGA BARDEL 

I am a wanton, a tliousand times worse than the Spanish woman 
at Biskra. I shall always hate myself that I tempted you. Noth- 
ing can alter that! I tempted you! I should have destroyed 
you ! I know now that God never meant us to be lovers. We are 
more like two ships tossed on the great sea, and making for the 
same port. Oh, my dear, I want always to hold that memory of 
you as I saw you last night when you told me your story. I 
want to see those dear eyes of yours, and all that fine-drawn qual- 
ity of your face that is just — you. I want to believe in you 
always as the one thing that has given life meaning to me. I 
want to think of you, strong, splendid, and triumphant. It has 
been a struggle of perversity; let us win out now to the end. If 
I may know that you are just there, somewhere in some great 
city, sometimes thinking of me, and always alive to suffering, 
expressing yourself, and fighting for what you represent — I some- 
how believe I can — go on. I did not know that love could reveal 
so much. All these people who have wandered through my life — I 
have seen them pass like a pageant — but you — I have found you 
in my heart revealing a world of infinite meaning. You have 
taught me to love — not merely you but all that you are. You 
have made me love myself, and the barbs and arrows that pierce 
me when I banish you. It is the supremest sacrifice that we can 
make, dear, isn't it? I feel strong to-night, and I think I can do 
this thing, but only if I may always hold the image of you in my 
heart when you said, "Olga, I did not come here to tempt you." 
Let us go on then, and perhaps one day, when we reach the great 
port, we may find each other side by side. 

Olga. 

Braille turned the letter over in his hand, and read 
it again and again. Then he continued staring at it, and 
turning it over without reading. At last he gripped it 
firmly but tenderly in his right hand, and buried his 
face in the pillow. 

The marble room seemed strangely silent. The mur- 
mur of the fountain died away to a whisper. She sat 



THE LETTER 355 

there in the small Japanese recess, with some work upon 
her lap, listening. By her side was a large inlaid ma- 
hogany bird-cage with gilt wires. In the cage was a 
black Central-American macaw. He sat on his perch, 
with his small head hunched between his shoulders, and 
his little dark eyes were fixed upon her. He too seemed 
to be listening intently. Facing her was a mirror set 
in an ebony frame. It was set at such an angle that by 
leaning forward she could just see the reflection of her 
husband's profile behind the portiere. He had on his 
thick pince-nez, and his eyes were fixed in an ice-cold con- 
templation of three valuable Chinese pots upon the table 
in front of him. They had arrived that morning. His 
hands were resting on one of them, feeling the glaze. 
She did not move. She knew that it was an hour when 
he did not like to be disturbed. She sometimes wondered 
whether his china was not more to him than — all the 
world. He seemed at times so much a part of it. And 
of late these periods of silence that had always been 
characteristic of him had become more pronounced and 
more prolonged. He would sit immobile by the hour, 
surrounded by the priceless pottery, appearing less like 
a man than like a frigid statement of humanity, a thing 
fixed and finished. On this afternoon his face had 
flushed at the arrival of the pots. He had seemed for 
the moment elated and gay. He had stroked them, and 
then carried them away to his' lair like a jungle-cat. 
She remembered him saying, "The Chinese, my dear, are 
creators, the Japanese — imitators." He had looked at 
them long and earnestly, and then he had gradually 
settled down to his turgid contemplation. She knew by 
experience that to disturb him at such times was both 



356 OLGA BARDEL 

dangerous and inexpedient. He would be strangely 
sulky and morose, and would look at her in a way that 
terrified her. His eyes would appear slightly blood- 
shot, and he would hardly seem to know her. 

They had not been married three months before she 
discovered his secret. The flushed cheeks, and the bright 
eyes, the clear and brilliant conversation, and then the 
sudden mood of utter depression and apathy. She could 
not understand this till one day when he retired to his 
dressing-room, and slept from lunch-time till nearly half- 
past six, and she had become alarmed. She had gone in, 
and by the side of the couch she had found a little phial, 
and a glass with a strangely sweet and penetrating odor. 

The affair had terrified her, and she had waited till he 
was normal. She was not the woman to leave a thing 
like that alone. She had gone down on her knees to him 
and begged him to think of her. She had conjured every 
form of persuasion she could contrive to save him. It 
had been terrible. Even now she could see the ghastly, 
hunted look on his face, and hear the weak laugh. He 
had tried to be candid with her, was a man for a few 
moments. He had suddenly clutched her hands, and 
said, "Ah, God! if I had met you fifteen years ago!" 

Fifteen years ! Then she too felt self-conscious and 
ashamed. He made her feel that she had been loyal to 
nothing, not even an idea. She had helped no one, saved 
no one, been no one's companion. She had compromised 
with opportunity, followed her impulses, and lived for 
herself. Inside she had always yearned for something 
finer and greater, some chance of expressing what was 
best in herself, but always she seemed the slave of com- 
promise, unable to cope with the unpitying conditions 



THE LETTER 357 

that social life imposed on her. Fifteen years ! This 
man, who was now her husband, must have had similar 
experiences. lie was cleverer than she, more intellectual, 
and yet he found life insupportable, so insupportable that 
he found escape in what the Easterners had called "the 
little window of the night." He was destroying him- 
self, and she could not save him. He had said, "If I had 
met you fifteen years ago ! ' ' 

But she knew that if she had met him fifteen vears 
ago, she would not have saved him. She did not love 
him, and she could never have loved him. Under the 
stress of various emotions, and a very definite social 
difficulty, she had compromised again wath herself. She 
had said, "It is finished." He had deceived her by not 
telling her about the drugs. And she had deceived him 
by pretending to herself that "it was finished," when 
she knew in her heart of hearts that she was yearning 
for the love of another man. They had drifted together 
like two straws in the maelstrom of social life, having 
only in common a certain kindred appreciation of 
esthetic values; admiring in each other the other's sen- 
sibilities. He was always kind to her, considerate, and 
courteous — except in the lapses when he did not remem- 
ber his own behavior, and even then he was never brusk ; 
only sullen and obtuse . . . 

The macaw shuffied a little nearer to her on his perch, 
and turned his dark eyes obliquely toward her. 

"What is it, Jacky?" she said quietly. "What is 
the matter?" 

And so it would go on. The day would pass, and 
other days; and then she would become old. She did 
not care to think of this, and she fumbled with a letter 



358 OLGA BARDEL 

on the work-table. It was from Richard at Oxford. It 
enclosed a press-cutting, with a sentence underlined in 
ink: 

Young Streatham at three-quarters also played a good game, 
tackling low, and having a very safe pair of hands. 

She smiled with pleasure as she read this. It was 
nice to think that perhaps on this gray afternoon 
"Young Streatham" was distinguishing himself. She 
could see his eager young face, his bright eyes, his 
muddy clothes, and those swift young legs racing across 
a damp field, hugging a ball. 

Richard was growing up. He was n 't exactly clever, 
but he was a very lovable boy. Everybody adored him. 
He had a certain rugged philosophy too. She remem- 
bered during the last vacation she had been talking to 
him in a tentative manner about — what one owes to 
one's neighbor, and he had suddenly laughed and said: 

"Oh, life isn't a thing that requires justifying. 
Mother. It 's an experience to be lived ! ' ' 

She liked the way he said that, and she often won- 
dered whether it were true. He would grow up and 
go out into the world. He would probably leave her, 
but it would all have been very wonderful. "An ex- 
perience to be lived!" 

"What isit, Jacky?" 

The bird suddenly behaved in a strange manner. It 
fluttered all over its body and cowered into the corner 
of the cage. Its small head seemed to be trembling and 
craning forAvard. She followed the line of the eye. It 
was fixed upon the mirror opposite. Automatically she 
looked into the mirror. She could still just see Sir 



THE LETTER 359 

Philip's profile. It appeared more rigid than ever, like 
the face of a porcelain god. The room was getting 
darker. She thought she would go up to her room, but 
she became aware of the bird behaving in an even more 
remarkable manner. It gave a little cry and looked at 
her, and huddled itself together and trembled violently. 

She said, "Jacky, Jacky, what is it?" 

But the bird continued trembling. Suddenly a 
curious feeling of concern came over her. She thought 
she had never felt that room to be so utterly silent. 
She could not hear the fountain. Everything seemed 
incredibly still. She peered forward into the mirror. 
Sir Philip had not moved. She could not account for 
the feeling of terror that suddenly came over her. She 
stood up and called out in a low voice: 

"Philip!" 

There was no answer, and she moved silently and 
quickly through the marble room. She knew that she 
was trembling violently herself, and was conscious that 
she raised her voice to a louder pitch : 

''Philip! Philip!" 

And the silence seemed more terrifying than before. 



EPILOGUE 

THE ROOF OF PURBECK STONE 

THE pallid stars had given up their vigil of 
the inconiprehensible city, and had slunk back 
into the sky. The dawn was heralded in by 
fitful gusts of rain that beat against the window. 
Braille caught hold of the hasp and peered out into 
Gyves Court. His face was pale, but lighted by an 
exultant gladness. 

"If you were to ask me what are the seven wonders 
of the world," he said, "to be candid, I could not tell 
you. But if you were to ask me what is the greatest 
wonder in the world, I should say — the laughter of 
children ! Nobody but a Frenchman could have coined 
that ridiculous paraphrase, 'Man proposes, woman 
disposes.' We all know in our hearts that men and 
women can propose what they like; — all the 'disposing' 
is done by children. They are the masters of the world. 
There is nothing to prevent men and women playing 
ducks-and-drakes with the whole cosmic equation, except 
that when they meet together, in some dim chamber, 
and mumble the conspiracy of their turgid desires, sud- 
denly above their heads they hear the patter of little 
feet, and the crash of that free and splendid laughter. 
Strange, is n't it ? how seldom one hears a man or woman 
really laugh — freely, frankly, splendidly! And when 

360 



THE ROOF OF PURBECK STONE 361 

we do hear such a one, we know that he or she has 
retained some vision of the 'trailing clouds' that makes 
us envious." 

He drummed on the panes, and then turned suddenly 
to me, and said: 

"I think you will like my place at Rading. It is in 
rather a jolly position on a bend of the do^^^2S, just 
eight and a half miles from the sea. I had some fun 
with it. I bought some old Purbeck stone from a 
builder at Lewes. It came from a monastery that had 
been destroyed. I used it for roofing, and the fact was 
— there was much too much of it. I added a wing to 
the farmhouse, and built an absurdly large studio. It 
is true I abolished the pigs, but I extended the stables, 
and built a ridiculous sort of archeological museum — 
stuff picked up on the downs. I really did it all to use 
up this Purbeck stone. It will amuse you to see what 
a 'roofy' place it is. It looks very jolly, though, espe- 
cially looking down on it coming by the road from 
Lewes. Posterity w^ill probably write me down as a 
great archeologist and authority on Sussex history, 
whereas I simply did it to use up the stone, and also to 
help a young chap I know who really is an authority. 
It was just caprice! 

"Do you ever allow your mind to dwell upon the 
vagaries of Caprice ? It is the flicker of the eyelid that 
controls the balance when the irresistible force meets 
the immovable mass. By caprice the king turns aside 
on some unusual path, and meets the beggar-maid. He 
looks into her eyes, and lo ! a new aristocrac}' is born ! 
and people call it — evolution ! By caprice this Uncle 
Grubhofer went one day to a concert in Liverpool — 



362 OLGA BARDEL 

you should know the result better than I! Do you re- 
member, Tony, that mad night two years ago when in 
a capricious mood you left some unholy function and 
ran into me at the corner of Jermyn Street? and we 
sat here — the slaves of some whimsical good — and we 
talked of some one and of her life, and you told me of 
your desire to 'set it down'? I got the better of you 
over that, you wretched quill-driver ! I warned you how 
it would be! When you start trying to see a life in 
pattern form you soon realize that no life is a complete 
thing in itself. You are marooned ! But come ! It will 
be grand up on the downs to-day, it 's always at its 
best when the sea is beaten up like churned milk, and 
the rain is driving in your face, and the sea-cats go 
shrieking before the wind. When you see my Purbeck 
roof and all that it covers, you will have a moment of 
revelation, you will understand what my old friend Paes 
meant by 'apotheosis,' perhaps you will even know why 
I painted 'The Mother' . . . All these things will be 
good for you to see, they will emphasize how much su- 
perior a painter is to a mug who 'sets things down.' 
What else shall I tell you? What more of my foolish- 
ness and horror? . . . When the hair of the world 
turned gray in a night, mine was already gray. The 
horror of it! When Europe picked up sides and de- 
cided to destroy itself, I visited a gentleman in White- 
hall. Ye Gods! You talk of my 'little visions,' Tony, 
I have none more vivid than that! That little gray- 
faced man with a receding beard who glanced at me and 
said 'You 're too old for the sea !' Too old for the sea! 
The lying, bleary-eyed huckster! Then may the edi- 



THE ROOF OF PURBECK STONE 363 

fices of Humanity crumble in the dust! Look at my 
torso ! feel my forearm, Tony ! Too old for the sea ! . . . 

"I was at Maggis Square when the boy went. You 
remember it was the house she moved to after Sir 
Philip's death. I hovered in the background like a 
specter. I felt at moments I had no right to be there, 
and at other moments that I had every right, that I 
possessed the whole show, as it were ; that I was the only 
real person in it. You know how sometimes when 
things are happening of tremendous moment to oneself, 
they are apt to take on a fantastic appearance, as though 
they were the actions of other people who had lived long 
ago, and were being reflected on a screen. . . . 

"One thing was very clear, an unstated fact that we 
all knew, and shared, and said nothing about. You see, 
the boy was only just over seventeen. He had lied to 
the authorities, and made out he was nineteen. He 
looked ridiculously young — a mere baby. No one could 
have been deceived. Olga had only to go down to the 
War Office and denounce him, and he would have been 
restored to her. I had hinted at this very vaguely one 
day, and I saw her troubled expression. She had said 
nothing. On this day while he was up-stairs, I looked 
at her again, with this suggestion on my lips, but some- 
how I had not the heart to express it. I knew that she 
knew of what I was thinking. She put her hand on 
my arm, and shook her head very slowly. Somewhere 
in the distance a cornet struck a bizarre note. The boy 
came down the stairs. He was ready. He looked fresh, 
gay, and excited. He was splendidly handsome, with 
his father's eyes and bearing, but with that determined 



364 OLGA BARDEL 

chin of his mother's, and something of her atmosphere. 
His clothes fitted him perfectly, and he looked taller 
and broader than he really was. 

"The Minotaur of War likes them like that, brilliant, 
joyous, and bewilderingly young, with that glad, vir- 
ginal, elevated expression of the eyes. Tempting mor- 
sels! My heart almost stopped as I saw him standing 
there in the hall, and his mother gazing at him, afraid 
to go and throw her arms around him . . . 

' ' I think of all the emotions of humanity there is none 
quite so — what shall I call it? — distinguished? — as the 
love of a mother for a grown-up son. It has lost some- 
thing of its primitiveness and has become tempered with 
a finely-wrought quality of mysticism, as though she 
had looked between the eyes of a god, and assisted at 
so profound a miracle that the world should ever after 
remain a place for the contemplation of her act. The 
boy, of course, was blustering, and 'bucking his mother 
up ' when he kissed her good-by. I had not the courage 
to tear myself away. I tell you, Anthony, I felt 
ashamed. The love that I held in my two hands seemed 
to crumble, to be a poor thing, unworthy to flash in 
the presence of this virile sorrow. The dreary note of 
the cornet in some far-away street seemed to jeer at 
me, and say: 

" 'You have no place in this. It is the sweet breath 
of Youth that the gods demand.' 

"I turned and looked out into the street. I heard 
her kiss him, and murmur: 

" 'My dear . . . my dear!' 

"She did not cry, and her ej^es had that splendid, 
impassioned look that filled them at great moments. 



THE ROOF OF PURBECK STONE 365 

She held him from her, and looked at his eyes and hair 
lingeringly, as though she were impressing on her mind 
an eternal picture. Then she looked down. The boy 
was brave enough, and he said — I 've forgotten what, 
but it seemed the right thing, and he swung out into the 
street. She stood by the door, and watched him go. 
As he turned the corner of the street, and waved for the 
last time, one might almost have tliought from her ex- 
pression that she was welcoming him home, her smile 
was so radiant, and her face so young and flushed with 
pride. When he had gone at last, she shut the door, 
and stood for some moments looking at the peg where 
his hat had hung. Then she swayed slightly, and 
walked along the hall into the back of the house. 

**You know how the houses are built in that square. 
There are three rooms, and a kitchen, on the ground 
floor, and a yard at the back. As women will in such 
moments, she immediately busied herself with her hands. 
I didn't exactly notice what she did, but I followed 
her into the kitchen. None of the maids were there. 
She walked across the kitchen, and picked up a — teapot, 
I think it was. She shook it, and stood indecisively in 
the middle of the kitchen for a second. And then a 
very remarkable thing happened. I hardly know how 
to tell you about it, Anthony, it may seem to you trivial 
and inconsequential, but to me it was the most poignant 
moment I have ever experienced. As she stood there 
at that moment, a starling fluttered through the yard 
at the back, and gave forth three long deep notes. She 
started, and tiptoed to the table flap in front of the 
window, and looked up at the starling with an expres- 
sion of amazed delight. She leant forv/ard, and her 



366 OLGA BARDEL 

lips were parted. The starling continued his song. I 
cannot tell you how that moment affected me. 

''Think of it! At that poignant hour crystallizing 
the wayward sorrows of her life, she turned aside and 
listened to the song of a bird ! With her heart crushed 
by the perversities of fate, she gazed dumbly, reverently, 
like a child looking up at an apple-tree on a morning 
in spring. Everything from the moment of her birth 
had conspired to crush that quality in her, but it had 
triumphed! and I thanked God that I was there to see. 

"Neither heredity, environment, nor the tyranny of 
saints or sinners, the material calls of artificial fame, 
or superficial love, neither despair, disappointment, out- 
rage, death, or sorrow had by one hair 's-breadth dis- 
turbed the serenity of that great soul; nay! it meant 
more than that, for I knew that as she turned and looked 
at me, out of her great love of me that came burning 
from her eyes there arose the breath of something 
greater, more impersonal, divine. Greater than love, 
greater than honor, greater than death, the power of a 
soul to renew itself, to look at life 'like a child.' They 
could not crush this in her, for they had not the power. 
I could not crush it in her if I had wished, for I had 
not the power. I could only see her at a distance, 
intangible and eternal like a star . . . 

' ' Then she came to me, and I went down on my knees. 
I don't know what I said — something in the nature of 
what I have been telling you. I tried to express to her 
how I felt, but she still seemed far away. My head was 
against her bosom, and her lips were upon my brow, 
those lips of which I had dreamt for twenty years and 
more — they were mine, given to me, and my arms were 



THE ROOF OF PURBECK STONE 367 

around her, aud yet she seemed so far away, as though 
it had all happened long ago. I tell you, I do not know 
what I said, but suddenly some phrase of mine gripped 
her, and she clung to it, as though it were the sanctuary 
of all her sorrows. Across the years she seemed to come 
back to me, and we stood there side by side, listening 
to the notes of the starling. ..." 



THE END 



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